Amish Taxi Drivers: Profiling Targets?

If you’re not familiar with the term “Amish taxi”, this refers to a service common in Amish areas of size.

Non-Amish drivers, often with large-volume passenger vans, provide hauling services for their Amish clientele.

amish-taxi-driverTaxi drivers ferry their Plain passengers to and from doctor’s offices, shopping outlets, family visits, and work destinations.

You’ll see ads for Amish taxi drivers posted on local bulletin boards, and every Amish family (where available and sanctioned by the church) will have at least a few numbers of drivers on hand.

We previously looked at the story of Amish taxi driver “Debbie”, heard about one Lancaster driver with a four-decade career, and also considered them one of 5 key people Amish depend upon.

As the story of Debbie related, taxi driving gives its own specific perspective on the Amish. One excerpt:

“You soon get to know the people who are “regulars”. There’s one couple that always brings me a coffee when they stop for one. Oh, that’s so nice! I can’t afford to treat myself every time someone else wants something, but I sure do appreciate being treated. Especially with the aroma of someone else’s cup of coffee teasing my nostrils.

There’s another thing I’ve noticed. You’d think the people who are well-off would be the ones to give you a tip every now and then, but not so. A young wife and mother recently slipped me an envelope with a generous donation inside. I know they’re still struggling to make farm payments, so I really appreciated and felt unworthy of the tip.”

Amish taxi driving is popular among retired folks who might appreciate extra income. Others make it a full-time occupation.

To be an Amish taxi driver, however, you are subject to regulation – in various forms depending on the locale. These include safety checks.

As far as inspections go, Amish taxi drivers in the Geauga County (northeastern Ohio) settlement are recently complaining of “targeting” by local law enforcement. From newsnet5.com:

MIDDLEFIELD, Ohio – A group of Amish taxi drivers, who serve the Amish in Middlefield, Ohio claim, in some cases, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is unfairly pulling them over for safety checks if they see Amish passengers in their transport vans.

Dale Eloph, who transports Amish passengers 10,000 miles every month, believes multiple drivers have been pulled over without probable cause, simply because Amish passengers can be seen inside the vehicles.

“They’ve been told to pull them all over, pull everybody over. ‘If you see a hat or a bonnet, pull them over,'” said Eloph. “You can’t just pull cars over just because there’s a certain group of people in your vehicle.”

Eloph believes the increased scrutiny will make it tougher on Amish taxis drivers, who are already working on a thin profit margin.

He believes it will force some drivers out of business, limiting needed travel options for the Amish, who won’t drive because of their faith.

Here’s the report from News 5 Cleveland (removed):

Did you notice the contrast in the appearance of vehicles that the producers used in the above video? Going by appearance alone, I’d opt for driver #2.

I wonder if the reason driver #1 is getting pulled over might be less about the hats and bonnets, and more about the large rust patches on the side of his vehicle.

Driver #2 compares Ohio to Pennsylvania, where rules are more onerous:

“No chauffeurs license in Ohio, you don’t have to have it inspected, no registration, no nothing,” said Comer. “There are some vehicles on the road that should be inspected and probably shouldn’t be on the road.”

On that note, on more than one occasion I have heard one Lancaster Amish friend, a market stand owner whose family uses a non-Amish driver four days a week, comment on the high level of oversight in his area.

Safety and freedom

Taxi drivers are one group of non-Amish people who depend upon Amish communities to make a living.

Of course, the dependence goes both ways – if Amish taxis suddenly disappeared, doing business, keeping up with family, and taking care of basic needs would immediately get a lot tougher for many Amish people.

Safety is important of course. Striking a reasonable balance between safety and freedom is the goal, so that drivers can continue to safely provide this valued (note: I first wrote “needed” here, but some others might not agree…) service.

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    9 Comments

    1. OSIAH HORST

      Unlicensed Taxis

      In Southern Ontario, the larger black vans were being randomly pulled over to check if they were hauling Old Order people without taxi or bus permits. Some licensed operators bought out some of the unlicensed operators because they were certainly cracking down. A mother had taken her daughter for her drivers test with the family van, a larger black one, and on the way home after the daughter passed her test, they were pulled over. Just checking!

    2. Eli Byler

      Amish Taxi profiling?

      To those who say they are being profiled, I would simply ask “Why?”

      Why would law enforcement pull someone over just because there are Amish in the vehicle?

      If your answer is “Because this area requires a permit to be an Amish Taxi,” then your complaint is rather frivolous and silly. Because it’s perfectly valid to see the cars holding Amish as being a more-likely place to check for illegal Amish taxis. You’ve got to admit that, if you want any credibility at all.

      So “Why?” is the question you need to answer. If there’s no permit required in the area where you feel this is happening, then why? What would they hope to find otherwise? You need to explain what you think is behind it. If no permit is required, are they simply doing a safety inspection? Because they spotted something that might be a violation of the traffic law, and could be a greater danger if someone’s using the car as a taxi? Again, perfectly valid.

      And finally, I wonder if you’re as defensive about profiling in general; does it bother you if cops appear to be profiling Hispanics, Blacks, Muslims, or Native Americans? If not, why?

      1. Randy Gooden

        A Possible Reason

        I think that a possible reason why the police would target Amish taxis for safety checks is that the police think that they should be regulated, but the legislature hasn’t agreed. So, the police resort to safety checks to try to regulate as far as they can under current law.

    3. Bob the Quaker

      Taxi my friends

      We have a small place in Lancaster, PA that we visit 2-3 times a year & stay about 1 1/2 months each time. We usually visit our Amish friends first thing. Within a day or two I will start getting calls for rides.
      I really don’t mind & I only charge for gas. Maybe that is why they call so often :-).
      We do enjoy the original visit, & we usually go out for a meal together during our time in PA. One Amish lady provides meals for tourists, & sometimes she has us join them at no cost.
      If you become friends with some Amish, they will be friends forever, but you may also become a taxi driver.

      1. I know what you mean Bob though I enjoy it. Obviously it’s a nice way to repay hospitality to friends, but I also enjoy hearing about the different places we go etc. from an insider perspective. I can “taxi” for hours and sometimes do 🙂

    4. Debbie H

      To the person asking Why. Could it be that in some areas people are just as prejudiced about Amish as they are about blacks, Hispanics, Muslim, etc. I suspect this has a lot to do with profiling them as well. Some people are prejudiced against anyone who is different, even in the police forces.

    5. eve

      Tier Three Sex Offender driving for Amish community

      BEWARE

      There is a Tier Three convicted sex offender, Albert Baker, driving for an Amish community in the Hillsboro, Greenfield Ohio area.

      Albert Baker charges, “only .50 a mile.” what an allure. I don’t know it this a targeting tactic or trying to give someone “a break.”

      All the information regarding Albert Baker can be found on the Attorney General’s Office of Ohio. “White girl, under the age of 13.”….

      The community has been given printed information regarding Albert Baker, how they choose to use this information I don’t know. They have been notified that if any inappropriate action/actions take place and they do not notify the authorities they can/will be held liable in a court of law.

      Children’s Social Services will be notified and the heartbreaks, heartaches will begin for the rest of their lives.

      This man, Albert Baker, paid his debt of nearly five years in prison, that is also an important fact to mention. For the remainder of his life he is supposed to register when/if he should move. Buyer Beware.

      In regards to drivers being “targeted”, lets get real. I have driven for the Amish in years past and can’t count how many times it was asked “can we get two more people in the car?” Seat belts for all people, regardless of age is not always a priority in the case of transporting the Amish.

      Old Order Amish, New Order Amish, Beechy Amish, the State Police could care less what “Order” they are. Just follow the orders, a seat belt for, and/or child restraint for EVERY person riding in the vehicle is the law. Follow it, and getting pulled over is only an inconvenience.

      Keep up the good work of reporting these issues.

    6. Mark -- Holmes Co.

      Thanks, Eve, for the warning! I wonder how many of the people in that community were alarmed? I know I would be… There is such a thing as giving the benefit of a doubt to someone who served his time, but on the other hand, there are plenty of cases that teach us this can be something that repeats. As a parent, I’d be very concerned. Aren’t their laws about the contact such a person may have with children?

      Seat belts and “can we get one more in?” I know of people that try that just like I know of drivers who allow it. Some of our people fail to see that while you can “cram one more” in a buggy, it’s neither safe nor legal in a car or other vehicle. Most drivers in our area are good about insisting on the seat-belts and safe numbers of passengers. Our favorite drivers (two of them) wait to start until everyone is belted in. I can think of times the one made an exception — such as discovering someone had been left stranded at an auction, but he made it clear he was not impressed and told everyone this is an exception. (And he took all back roads home, too.)

      It occurs to me now, too, that the offender might be able to convince the Amish he was “framed” or it was a “misunderstanding.” That happened in the Berlin area about two years ago and since most Amish will take someone at their word, that guy was driving for a few months before non-Amish people shared stories from the news and the warning was then heeded.

    7. Tammy

      To eve Amish taxi driver

      Hi eve, my name is Tammy, could I talk to u about driving for the Amish? Thank u eve.