Amishman Suffers Broken Neck After Car Crests Hill, Hits Buggy

I’m pointing this accident out as an example of a buggy road danger which I think is under-covered.

Speed and lighting get a lot of attention, but hills are another big threat to Amish buggies.

An Amishman is recovering with a broken neck in northern New York following an accident involving a hill.

By the looks of this photo of his demolished, upside-down carriage, he’s lucky to be alive:

Photo by Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

From NNY360:

CANTON — A Lisbon man, Abe Gingreich, 39, was taken to the hospital with a broken neck after the Amish buggy he was operating was struck from behind.

Mr. Gingreich was southbound on Route 68 near the intersection with Basswodd Ridge Road at 8:48 a.m. Sept. 26, when police say he was hit by a 2014 Dodge Dart driven by Amy L. Kelso, 33, Ogdensburg. Ms. Kelso had just crested a hill when the crash occurred, police said.

The driver got a ticket for following too closely.

It sounds like what happened is that the driver crested the hill only to find the buggy on the downslope with not enough time to decelerate.

Hills are natural visibility blockers.

If you’re driving over one at 45-55 mph, and there’s a buggy which unbeknownst to you had just passed over the hill 20 seconds earlier, you’re going to come up on a surprise.

Probably too quickly to stop in time.

Gingerich’s injuries are said to not be life-threatening. I assume he is not going to be paralyzed due to his neck injuries either, but that is not stated.

Going by a photo of the recent accident which claimed three Amish children’s lives in Michigan, it appears that one happened near a hilltop, though that detail to my knowledge has not been revealed.

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    14 Comments

    1. Az gal

      Immediate solution is needed.

      Something has to be done, and now! Perhaps a lane could be created to the side of the road for buggys?

      1. AJW

        I agree with you 100% Az gal

      2. Brianna Wojciechowicz

        Yup

        I was thinking the same thing. Around the beginning of September they were giving the Amish in Washingtonville a hard time about the buggys. If we can have lanes for bikes then why not buggys at least in certain areas.

        1. Buggy lanes a limited solution

          In some places there are very wide shoulders and/or bona fide lanes. Examples of this include Indiana State Road 5 in Lagrange County, or on this road in Holmes County, OH: https://amishamerica.com/buggy-lanes-in-action-11-photos/

          However it’s not feasible to have a buggy lane on every backroad where Amish travel, and those can be some of the more dangerous roads, tending to have lower visibility due to curves and hills.

          1. Buggy lanes coming soon in a Wisconsin settlement

            Here’s another example of a highway expansion which will include wide enough shoulders to accommodate buggies. This is in Columbia County, Wisconsin. It looks like the initial plan was for a 5-foot shoulder but local residents lobbied for it to be 6 feet.

            I believe this is the area of the Kingston/Dalton settlement, the state’s 2nd-largest, though the article only references 40 families living in the near vicinity.

            https://www.nbc15.com/content/news/Highway-22-shoulders-set-to-expand-wide-enough-for-Amish-buggy-drivers-560635471.html

            From the article:

            COLUMBIA COUNTY, Wi. (WMTV) — Highway 22 shoulders are set to expand in Columbia County, wide enough for Amish buggy drivers to ride safely.

            According to Michael Bie, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the final plans for the Highway 22 resurfacing project will include 6-foot shoulders. He said the project will be between the WIS 16 interchange and the Columbia-Marquette County line in Marcellon. Bie added that this design is to “accommodate Amish buggy traffic.”

            Tom Borgkvist is the Columbia County board district 3 supervisor. He said that there are about 40 Amish families in the towns of Marcellon and Fort Winnebago.

            “Right now there’s about a 2-feet black top shoulder and 3 feet of gravel,” Borgkvist said. ”(The buggies) are in the gravel half the time. The horse’s wheels are out in the driving lane.”

            The initial design by the DOT included a shoulder expansion to 5 feet. But Borgkvist was one of the area residents who expressed concern on behalf of Amish families, that 5 feet would not be wide enough. From wheel to wheel, horse-drawn buggies are over 5 feet.

    2. Elizabeth Ingersoll

      What’s the status of the horse? This buggy wasn’t sitting on the side of the road horseless.

      1. I don’t think there was info in the original article on the horse (can no longer access it without subscribing), but I found another report which includes a video.

        You can see the horse standing there by the side of the road as its owner is tended to by medical personnel, and it appears to be fine:

        https://www.wwnytv.com/2019/09/26/reported-injured-car-buggy-accident/

    3. Geo

      I feel bad for both parties. Hills, yes, also driveways, intersections, and curves cause slower vehicles to appear suddenly in front of faster traffic. Not only buggies but anything slower. My driveway exits next to a blind hilltop and after a few close calls, I leave my driveway into the lane where I can see what’s coming. Between me and drivers approaching on the blind side of the hill, only I know I am pulling out so I feel responsible to stay out of their way. Assured clear distance ahead laws don’t fairly deal with such situations. Drivers may be faulted for collisions which they may POSSIBLY have had no meaningful chance to avoid.

    4. Joe Z

      Hills are dangerous in Holmes County, too

      We recently came back from an extended trip in our small motorhome, One stop was in Holmes County, OH. There are plenty of blind crests and curves there. I ALWAYS slow down as I come to the crest of a hill in that area. It may annoy the locals, but the last thing I want to have happen is what happened here.

      Yes, buggy lanes would be nice, but in many of these rural areas it would be quite cost prohibitive to put them in on all roads. Even in places like Shipshewana, IN, they are only on the major roadways. They help, but you still have to watch for buggies turning left, which can’t be done from the buggy lane.

      1. Good points Joe. I think you see them more on the major roads in areas where installing them is feasible. In some places (I’m thinking Lancaster County) you’ve got a lot of old homes and historic buildings which already sit very close to the road, leaving little to no space for widening of the road.

        Holmes County is probably the best example of a community with this type of inherent danger due to its landscape.

    5. Rita

      Agreed - too many close calls!

      Here in York County across the river from Lancaster County, this is a very real danger. Our back roads go over hills and around curves – even when traveling the speed limit of 35 mph, coming upon a buggy is dangerous and it’s very difficult to avoid accidents. I love living in an area with a lot of Amish neighbors, but it does make riding our roads safely more challenging.

    6. Randy Artherhults

      Buggy lanes can save lives!

      We have buggy lanes in Amish country in north-eastern Allen County Indiana, and they have helped cut down on accidents involving buggies.

      1. Randy thanks for sharing that – would you mean actual asphalt lanes on main roads? Just curious how it looks in your area. It’s been some time since I’ve been in that community. I do remember many years ago seeing a lane of sorts carved out from farmland on what was probably a particularly dangerous stretch of road.

    7. Vivian Furbay

      Amish man has broken neck from accident.

      This is a horrible accident and I pray he fully recovers. You really have to be careful driving if you live in an area where there are a lot of Amish who drive in buggies with horses. God help and bless this man and his family.