“Disrespect For Amish” – Underreported Cause Of Buggy Accidents?

The Amish in Texas County, Missouri are few in number. Nonetheless, they’ve found themselves frequent victims on the roads lately.

A woman and her two children are in serious condition after their buggy was hit Friday night by a pickup truck. This was the third buggy accident in two years for this sparsely-populated southern Missouri County.

Texas County is unusual for several reasons. It is the largest of the state’s 114 counties in area, by a good measure. Its county seat is called Houston, keeping with the Lone Star theme. And in the last census, it was the site of the mean center of the US population, which has migrated across the state over the past several decades.

It’s also home to two Amish congregations, who first came here 10 years ago. Yet there’s another sad oddity to add to the above list. In September 2017, a driver rear-ended a buggy in the community, killing a 29-year-old pregnant Amish woman. Less than a year later, the driver hit another buggy, carrying four youth – on the same road.

This KY3 video report below shows us a concerned local woman. She suggests there should be more road signage in the area to raise awareness of the Amish. However, she points to a possibly deeper root cause of buggy accidents:

“It breaks my heart to see this, because some people in this town just don’t have respect for them…they don’t. And really it’s sad because they share the roads and we have to respect them. There needs to be more awareness of the Amish here.”

I’m not exactly sure what “don’t have respect” means here. She might mean a lack of respect for the vulnerable position buggy drivers find themselves in. Or, it might mean outright dislike or animosity of the Amish as people.

It should also be noted that the driver who struck two buggies on the same road was 83 years old. Age-related factors (poorer vision or reaction time?) may have played a part there.

Some years ago we asked the question, are tourist or local drivers more dangerous for Amish buggies? In that case, I mentioned that some Amish friends felt locals were a greater danger.

My impression is that tourists sometimes do stupid things like stopping in the road for a photo, but locals tend to be more aggressive and impatient. Reader comments on that post overwhelmingly suggested locals were worse around buggies as well.

Do locals in Texas County disregard Amish safety as the woman suggests? Is there animosity towards the Amish here for some other reason, as you see in some places? If that’s the case, would more signs even make a difference?

Many factors are cited when buggy accidents happen – driver inattention, lack of visibility, lack of buggy markings, driver impairment, speed, and more.

But is disrespect or dislike of the Amish a root cause which goes undiscussed in many of these reports?

Drivers get frustrated by slow buggies on their roads, causing them to drive erractically or with disregard for the safety of the Amish drivers. This can take the form of high speeds, dangerous passing on low-visibility curves where passing shouldn’t happen, and cutting too close when merging back into the lane after passing. I’ve witnessed it on many occasions. And if you happen to dislike the Amish and see them more as strangers than neighbors, that can’t help.

It sounds like this could be part of the problem in Texas County. If so, it wouldn’t be unique in that.

Sadly, Missouri has recently seen another buggy accident, one which ended in tragedy. Less than two weeks ago, a 7-year-old Old Order Mennonite boy was killed, when the buggy he was in was struck by a pickup truck, in St. Francois County, MO.

In that case, the teenaged truck driver was said to have not been paying attention on his morning drive to work.

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    36 Comments

    1. Mean capital of the US

      Thanks for posting this update on the many avoidable MV accidents in Amish Country. It’s so sad when people are injured or killed when others are not paying attention or are distracted.
      Asking people to be more responsible is such a task because there are irresponsible people that don’t change. I’m not saying they can’t change, I’m saying so many don’t change. Please let me know when you figure out how to do that.
      Should convicted, irresponsible drivers be required to ride in a buggy on a congested road at dusk?
      I’m still thinking about the county being the “mean capital of the US” according to the last census. Please elaborate on that comment, I’m curious.
      How do you judge mean? Who is the judge? What if the judge is mean?
      Thanks,
      Jim

      1. Carolyn Frank

        My dictionary defines “mean” this way: something having a position midway between extremes; medium. In this case it would be the geographic center of continental USA. Nothing about how people treat each other.
        You, being an author, are probably challenging us readers with tongue in cheek.

      2. Thanks for the chuckle.....

        Jim, I read all the way through the article and it never once occurred to me that “mean” could have an alternate mean-ing (to add yet a third). 😉 I’m with Carolyn…, but within the context of a place that possibly doesn’t like Amish the sense of ill-will is easy to read into it. I love a good play on words, so thanks for the chuckle of the day. 😉

        1. Mean & median centers of population

          Ah yes – mean as in the meaning of average…I don’t know what the mean capital of the country would be and I’m going to refrain from guessing here 😉

          For anyone interested, here is how the Census Bureau defines mean center of population, via Wikipedia:

          The concept of the center of population as used by the U.S. Census Bureau is that of a balance point. The center of population is the point at which an imaginary, weightless, rigid, and flat (no elevation effects) surface representation of the 50 states (or 48 conterminous states for calculations made prior to 1960) and the District of Columbia would balance if weights of identical size were placed on it so that each weight represented the location on one person. More specifically, this calculation is called the mean center of population.[2]

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_center_of_the_United_States_population

          And this is how they describe the median center of population (as of the 2010 census, this was located in Pike County, Indiana):

          the point though which a north-south line and an east-west line each divides the total population of the country in half.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Median_center_of_United_States_population

    2. Joe Donnermeyer

      spot on

      I think the comment — “My impression is that tourists sometimes do stupid things like stopping in the road for a photo, but locals tend to be more aggressive and impatient.” — is spot on. Both varieties pose risks for the Amish, but the reasons are very distinctive.

    3. WHY WAS THE 83 Y-O MAN STILL ALLOWED TO DRIVE AFTER THE FIRST ACCIDENT

      APPEARS TO ME THAT NOT ONLY DO THE PEOPLE IN MO DISRESPECT THE ROAD RIGHTS OF THE AMISH, BUT THE LAWS ALSO DISRESPECT THEM BY NOT PULLING THIS MANS LICENSE AFTER THE FIRST ACCIDENT!! IF HE HAS POOR VISION AT THAT AGE, IT SHOULD HAVE SHOWN UP AT HIS LICENSE RENEWAL. IF HE HAD A SERIOUS ACCIDENT WITH ANOTHER CAR, HIS LICENSE WOULD HAVE BEEN REVOKED..BUT BECAUSE THE FIRST ACCIDENT WAS WITH AM AMISH BUGGY THAT ACCIDENT WAS TREATED DIFFERENTLY AND IGNORED.

      HAD THE LAW REVOKED HIS LICENSE THE FIRST TIME FOR CAUSING A FATAL TRAFFIC ACCIDENT, WHEN HE KILLED THE FIRST WOMAN, BE IT WITH ANOTHER MOTORIZED VEHICLE OR WITH A HORSE DRAWN VEHICLE, THEN THIS NEWS STORY MIGHT NOT EXIST. THIS IS A LEGAL PROBLEM FOR THE STATE OF MISSOURI WHO CHOSE TO IGNORE A FATAL ACCIDENT AND WHO ALSO LICENSED THIS OLDER AGED MAN IN THE FIRST PLACE WITHOUT PROPERLY RE-TESTING HIS EYESIGHT AND EXAMINING HIS POSSIBLE IMPAIRED DRIVING ABILITIES!! SHAME ON THE STATE OF MO. FOR NOT THINKING THAT AMISH LIVES MATTER!!

      1. Well if someone is capable of driving and doesn’t have disabilities preventing them from doing so effectively, I don’t think we have ways to prevent someone based on the judgment that they are “too old”, nor would I agree that we should try to do that…an older person can still drive well and safely, even if not as adeptly as when they were younger. I was only speculating about vision, etc. I would assume that there was an investigation and perhaps the accident was deemed just that, an accident. I’m not sure what happened following the second incident last year, however, as two times suggests that there is more going on here. Also, the driver in this case was a woman.

    4. Ted

      Disprect for Amish

      For about 40 years I went deer hunting in the licking area. People (in general) drive way to fast for the road conditions and especial the local drivers, they act like they own the roads, and everyone else is on their private highways. The highways are way to narrow for fast moving traffic the highways need to be straighter because there are a lot of hairpin curves, and winding roads on most of the highways, especial on Highway 32 from Highway 63 to Success, Mo
      Highway 63 was improved a few years back and they added some alternative 3 lane highways (passing lanes)that made a big difference. The county or the state hardly ever mowes the tall weeds along side the highways and in some places it’s hard to see the deep ditches alongside those highways.

      1. So Ted it sounds like you noticed road conditions could be better in this area…seeing the shots from the video footage, it seems like they have runs of roads going up and down hills where visibility would be low to non-existent, and you could easily catch a buggy after cresting a hill. I’ve found those to be some of the more dangerous circumstances involving buggies (you see similar hills in places like Holmes County, OH).

    5. James

      Could tell you more.

      I knew the family from Saint Francis well. I used to live in a similar community in Western Missouri. The teen that hit them was driving the car for the 1st time after he got his license… not shure if it was a reinstate. He hit the gas instead of the brakes…. spinning the tires!!!

    6. Is there animosity behind the accident, you ask? I don’t guess I had thought of that being a significant factor. I have only been on a passing visit through this place, so can’t speak knowledgeably to it specifically. I will say in my various travels through Amish settlements all over I have not seen anything to suggest that is a real factor. Is it road-rage in general? Not really buying that either because there is road rage for all kinds of factors, but we don’t see number going up because of it. My gut feel is that the single greatest factor (albeit, at times overlapping with others) is the fact that the Amish buggy and passengers are simply more vulnerable. The same bump that a car would get from slow reflexes or distractions by the driver in another vehicle with wipe out a buggy; and while a car passenger might get a bruise from a fender tap, the buggy passenger could loose that limb — or a life. I think it is just a matter of the inherent nature of the Amish vehicle that is the main reason.

      Will more signs change that? Well, let me put it this way…., what percentage of smokers quit smoking because they put a sign on EVERY pack warning of the health dangers?

      So what can be done? Forgive me if this sounds cold — it’s not meant to be. But if the problem is the inherent nature of the Amish buggy, and if the Amish don’t see it as being problematic enough to make it different…, it really sounds like the ball is in their court. Sure, I would be all for cooperating with the Amish if they wanted to engage in some for of cooperative effort for improving things. But if they are content with the way things are, well, like I say, it seems the ball is in their court.

    7. Spartaeus

      Disrespect for others in general

      It’s an odd thing that many people who seem normal, turn into entirely different people when they get behind the wheel of a car. Maybe it’s the roar of the engine , or the feeling of power they get being able to propel themselves to a high rate of speed simply by pressing down on a pedal. I’ve seen many seemingly normal people get behind the wheel of a car, and suddenly other people become nuisances to them. They blare their horns at people, grumble to themselves, or worse, without thinking that the folks they’re grumbling at are people with children and families. It seems that just because someone can pass an eye test, shouldn’t be the only criteria for issuing a license to drive. Maybe they should be tested for pedestrian awareness ability. Or perhaps a device should be installed in all new vehicles that completely prevents the use of electronic devices that have been shown to contribute to the increasing number or highway fatalities. Irresponsible people in my opinion should not be allowed to drive.

      1. I’ve noticed something similar. Sometimes it is adrenaline junkies out for speed.

        You wrote: “Or perhaps a device should be installed in all new vehicles that completely prevents the use of electronic devices that have been shown to contribute to the increasing number or highway fatalities.”

        Does such a device exist now? I could see the appeal especially for parents of teenage drivers (though they’re hardly the only ones texting while driving).

        1. Spartaeus

          Electronic jamming device

          Yes there are jamming devices to prevent the use of cell phones in a limited area. But … the government has made them illegal. Their thinking is that criminals could use them when commiting a crime, thus preventing someone from calling 911. The police and military use them to secure an area. It seems to me that very low powered jammers with a very tiny range, say 8 feet, could be used to prevent accidents. New statistics show that since computers and newer communication devices have been installed in police vehicles, that traffic accidents among law enforcement officers has sky rocketed dramatically. Goes to show how dangerous texting and driving really is.

          1. I see, interesting. I did not think about the possible negative uses. Thanks for explaining that.

    8. Disparity

      Let’s face it, the Amish are a tightly knit, homogeneous society. Unlike the ‘English’, they follow the same rules and regulations…almost to the letter. They must also follow the ‘laws’ promulgated by the ‘English’. Laws pertaining to road use, e.g.. They never, for example drive their buggies on what we English refer to as super-highways because of several things: the law states a minimum speed of 40 mph; they’d be taking their lives in their hands; there’s no advantage in taking those particular routes anyway. The Amish are relegated to usage of secondary and tertiary roads and they abide by the laws governing those byways to which they are restricted. Most English, and especially those in what is considered ‘The Bible Belt’, know very little about the Amish. Ergo, they’re somewhat apprehensive when they encounter them…whether it be on the road or other environments, giving them pause to ponder the differences between them and they can’t comprehend just what it means to be Amish. And, what one fails to understand, one is leery of, and what one leery of, one is apprehensive…which most often turns to suspicion and distrust. And, all these things together spell fear. This fear often manifests itself in ‘hate’ or at least strong dislike.

      If I were one of the ‘elders’ in the Amish community, I’d try to find out what the local’s strongest interests are and, if possible plan some sort of event which would hold the interest of both the English and the Amish, thus bringing the two sides together in closer contact which might foster a better relationship between them. If something like that works, then try to enlist the English to help plan more events where cooperation is necessary and maybe, just maybe, some friendships might be the result.

      1. Horse and buggy vs car

        When a community makes it a rule to remain apart from another community, regardless of the reasons, there is bound to be some ignorance and misconception about that community; on both sides. If you make your living by selling your wares to the community you wish to remain separate from, then it is incumbent upon you to have a good attitude towards that community. This goes both ways, of course. I was on very friendly terms with a couple of Amish families in the Gladwin, MI area. Such that I was invited into their homes whenever I showed up. Some Amish people ae very interested in the Englishers; some are not. Some Amish are shy and some are not. Some are afraid; some are not. Some are friendly towards the Englishers, some are not. I don’t do business with the unfriendly ones. I also knew quite a few Michiganders who despised the Amish for their “old-fashioned” ways and would go out of their way to be rude towards them. Many English Christians do not consider the Amish to be real Christians. That is one of the reasons they do not treat the Amish well. Of course, like all fundamentalist Christians, the Amish aren’t overly impressed with the English Christians either!

    9. Walter Boomsma

      One reality regarding disrespect...

      During our last visit to the Lancaster PA area, we ended up waiting for a table in, shall we say, an Amish themed restaurant. For reasons I can’t explain, another, clearly local resident who was also waiting, directed a diatribe against the Amish in general at me and anyone else who was within earshot. I was truly surprised at the intensity… and the irrationality he displayed. I opted not to respond mostly because I saw no hope of having any influence or impact on him. (Maybe I was feeling “Amish!”) But as I recall the experience, this is a man I can envision driving beyond aggressively around or near a buggy. He is obviously “at war” with the Amish and it is probably not beneath him to want to “teach them a lesson” by speeding past and cutting it close.

      While I make no accusations regarding any of the incidents referred to in this thread, the incident I describe left me more sad than angry because I can no longer deny the disrespect that exists towards the Amish among some.

      I have never experienced comparable disrespect and hate towards the English among the Amish. There just might be something for us all to learn here.

      At the same time there are plenty of accidents due to driver inattention, lack of experience, etc. that do not involve Amish buggies. They just don’t tend to be reported by national media. Personally, I am much more comfortable sharing the road with Amish buggies than the average car being driven by someone with a smartphone. I have followed a buggy until I thought it was safe to pass… often with the car behind me following too closely and blinking headlights. Those few minutes extra may actually make a big difference in the grand scheme of eternity. Over that next hill there may be another buggy… someone walking, an animal or a child in the road. We can all be better drivers.

      Contrary to much thinking, the Amish really don’t need “fixing.” We would all benefit by greater communication and understanding, no question. But there are plenty of things we can run into besides buggies. It just might be that having them around makes us a little more careful and attentive.

      1. Maureen

        Regarding Disrespect

        Erik,

        I’ve been a passenger and an occasional buggy drive among the Amish/Mennonite community. But no more – too many awful experiences had me wondering why the Amish did not take better “safety” precautions all year round.

        I’ve been in an Amish buggy where a group of young English adults thought it was funny to throw a firecracker at the legs of the horse in motion roaring by at high speed.. I’ve been in a buggy where English have thrown their fast-food garbage into the in-motion-buggy and racee by howling, screaming, and laughing. Mostly, though they throw beer bottles/cans. Several English auto drivers find it so hilarious to creep up behind an in motion buggy and bump it with their pick- up trucks! While the Amish men drivers DO NOT take this lightly, the Amish women driving the buggies remain passive. The Amish children get scared and oftentimes cry.

        The last time I rode/drove an Amish buggy was in 2011. I was the driver, going up a steep hill at dinner time; my more than capable standard bred was young and sound. We were traveling, climbing a hill slow and in the center of the road when a middle age female local resident was annoyed [the road would not allow me to drive the shoulder] leaned on her horn the entire two and a half miles it took me to get to level ground. This horn was disturbing, unrelenting, and created angst and potential danger as per the horse’s reaction. Once level, I could hear her loud radio as she pulled out on the left side of the buggy in the on coming traffic lane. She slowed and proceeded to curse me, screaming that I was selfish taking up the entire road. [This is a farm road, two lanes] I lost my patience and picked up a potato and threw it down into her open passenger window drectly at her; It was a bullseye. My Amish friend Amy [front] passenger beside me [we had her two young girls in the back] chastised me after the indecent, quoting scripture.

        Ironically I responded as a Yankee to this buggy incident, as it seemed [at the time] being “passive” was wrong. But the Amish men did not condone my actions. Amy’s husband understood my reaction as “the way of the English’. But I was so angry over this incident, [the last straw for me] I went to the local police that night. The police had a different reaction – one of “action”. I also told the police about my conduct as well, which did not phase them all that much as buggy harassment had become all too common, as well as buggy accidents.

        Amish buggies are dangerous on so many levels’; they are just not safe. Amish rely on an animal to keep sound; this in an of itself is ridiculous on most busy roads. The Amish “trust” that auto/truck drivers are going to obey the speed limit; we all know different. Many drivers, Amish not withstanding, drive impaired. Moreover, there are disgruntled English that have issues with the Amish, that use the road to vent. A horse does not have to be antagonized to become spooked that can potentially put all drivers in jeopardy.

        As the Amish communities grow in our country, the power-that-be along with the Amish should improve roads to accommodate horse and buggy travel. But the Amish are reluctant to speak up about buggy safety hazard, because they might have to change the structure of their buggy. As a result, many indcidents concerning horse and buggy go unreported – the Amish way!

        1. Really interesting comment, Maureen. And thanks for sharing that story. Some of the stories you hear are just unbelievable. 2.5 miles of horn. That is more than just a bit of frustration, that is road rage (“backroad rage”?). I can see the Amish response being what it is, though some would say that driver got off lucky that it was just a potato thrown. Sounds like that incident might have put you off any buggy travel for good then.

          The bit that jumped out at me more than anything was: “Moreover, there are disgruntled English that have issues with the Amish, that use the road to vent.”

          I’d never thought of it in those terms, but that is very succinctly put.

          1. Maureen

            Regarding Disrespect

            Erik,

            I could write a book on this subject. A week and so before “road rage” incident, Amish Mother Amy, her children, and I went into town and parked in a designated “horse and buggy” pakring space provided by the hardware store. I waited [this time I was the passenger] in the buggy with Amy’s kid’s, while Amy went in for some cheese-cloth and other items.

            Out of no where a middle aged [English] man walked up to us and threw a brown grocery bag filled with horse manure into our parked buggy. He threw it so hard and with such force, it hit me and the bag exploded with wet, fresh manure. It stunned me so. it took a bit before it all registered. And my delay was this hateful man’s luck; he was gone as quickly as he arrived. Further, the buggy parkig lots are usually to the side of the stores, and it was a rainy day sparce of shoppers; perfect for premeditated harassment.

            The Amish take this torment in stride; I do not. So it behooved me to drive my vehicle for safe keeping for all concerned. But Erick, this type of antagonism and disrespect is widespread and commonplace; it is generally not taked about among the Amish. Buggy incidents pose vulnerability and danger. [If we had been in a closed vehicle, this obviously would not have had the same impact].

            1. Absolutely awful and hard to believe someone would act that way. “Amish harrassment” is a phenomenon that occurs in some communities. An academic wrote a paper about it, citing numerous incidents, often on the road, similar to what you have described before. I do wonder what’s driving this animosity and whether law enforcement has been involved in any of this in your area.

              This is the paper, by Bryan D. Byers:

              https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c4f6/2b1259b15cda1c00ef37a0225052c0723a28.pdf

      2. Mark Louden

        I appreciate many of the comments folks have shared here, especially Walter Boomsma’s mentioning the hazard of distracted, cellphone-addicted drivers. Here in WI, on a number of occasions when there is a vehicle-on-buggy accident reported in the media, I read online readers’ comments. In most cases, these are highly critical of the Amish simply for operating buggies on roads, period. This criticism has also come up at outreach presentations that I do, and my response is this. Buggies and other non-motorized vehicles have a legal right to share certain roads with motorized vehicles and all parties are responsible for safety. Motor vehicle drivers have a responsibility to be aware of numerous potential hazards, including bicycles, farm vehicles, and of course pedestrians. And when I mention to critics that there are far more fatal accidents here involving motorcycles, often operated by drivers with no helmets, things get rather quiet in the home state of Harley-Davidson. Why should Harley riders get a pass but not Plain people? The question of implicit disrespect of Amish is spot-on.

    10. tom-ga

      ken tibbetts

      The bible belt folks are more afraid of people like you than they are Amish. I am a person who admire the amish for their unselfishness and hard work and most of my bible belt friends think this to. They are wary of people who try to tell them what they think.

      1. Little or none

        tom-ga’s reply to my comment is, at the very least, arcane and abstruse.

        1. Tom-Ga's comment

          Mr. Tibbetts: I agree!

    11. Gaylon Harden

      Button

      Eric:How about a Like/dislike button after each item just for fun?

      1. It’s an interesting idea, at least a like button. Someone brought this up years ago, not sure I was able to find a good solution, but will check it out again and see if there is some sort of light add-on that could provide that functionality without slowing the load time down any more. Thanks for the idea Gaylon.

    12. Adair

      Do the Missouri Amish use the reflective triangles on their buggies? I was driving on a back road after dark near Ethridge, TN a few years ago, and although I was driving slowly and carefully, I was nonetheless surprised at coming up upon a buggy suddenly: I was practically on it before I saw it. No accident or even near accident – I was driving slowly – but the near invisibility of the buggy made a deep impression on me, and I can see how accidents could easily happen at night.

      1. Adair, from the picture above it seems clear that the Amish in this settlement use the SMV triangle. But there are numerous (dozens?) of different Amish settlements across the state of MO here, and each one makes up their own rule. Clark settlement is one where the triangles and other reflectors are limited — possibly limited to the youth’s buggies, but I can’t say for sure. But for the most part it seems that the settlements in MO do use the triangles.

        1. Adair

          Thank you, Don; obviously you are correct ( assuming that the photo is actually relevant to the accident and not just a stock photo). I certainly didn’t mean to blame the victim here, just to point out that those of us accustomed to driving on better lighted roads among vehicles with headlights can be very much surprised by how dark it is and how hard it is to see a dark buggy from any distance at all. I live way out in the country and am used to dark roads at night and that buggy still took me by surprise! If driving in the dark in an Amish area – be super careful and drive slowly!

          1. Well, not only did I notice the picture above, but I was through Licking for the first time a couple of months back and I looked back through my pictures of that pass-though visit and confirmed the buggies have triangle. So I guess I cheated some. (ha)

            Forgive me if any of my last response sounded confrontational in any way. I just meant to address your question of what it was like here in MO. Lot of settlements, and all with different twists on how they handle things.

            1. Adair

              Didn’t sound confrontational at all, Don! My point is merely that accidents can occur, especially at night, more easily than we might think. I’m really quite shocked by all these tales of antagonistic behavior towards buggies; it’s hard to imagine people thinking that way much less behaving that way. And I always enjoy your photos – hope to see some more soon!

              1. Well, let’s hope that when it comes to antagonistic behavior that the highlighted few incidents don’t represent the whole.

                Thanks for the compliment. And Erik has another article of mine due out any day now, plus I have 3 or 4 more in various stages of completion — so, as they used to say, stay tuned. 😉

                1. On that note, just posted Don’s latest: https://amishamerica.com/amish-directories/ 🙂

    13. Liz

      buggy accidents

      Could it be possible for non amish future drivers have the experience of “driving” in a buggy in traffic? I think they would have a better understanding of what it is like in a buggy.

      Could white noise emitters be allowed in buggies? This would disrupt cell phone service of car drivers.

      Is there a way to incorporate a buggy only lane into the road way systems where advised?