Heuvelton Amish To Nearly Double Safety Tape on Buggies

Coming on the heels of the Wisconsin building code exemption, another conflict involving Amish appears to have been resolved last week in Heuvelton, New York (St. Lawrence County).

As reported in the Watertown Daily Times, area Amish have agreed to nearly double the amount of reflective tape used on their buggies (the group in question objects to using the orange SMV triangle; for a summary of the case, go here).

The agreement followed a summit of community leaders Sen. Ritchie arranged. A series of tests using a variety of reflective tapes was conducted to find out what would work best to improve visibility and safety. In the end, the leaders agreed that adding more reflective tape was the best solution.

State law requires 72 square inches on the rear of the buggy, “plus an additional six inches on the front upright post.” The Heuvelton Amish have agreed to use 144 square inches.


In addition to increasing the tape on the rear of the vehicle, tape will also be added to sides, the front, and the carriage shaft in order to alert drivers approaching from other directions.

Amish leaders also intend to urge others in the community to “upgrade” their red lantern lenses, as well as paint the interior of the lantern white to boost reflectivity. The additions and increase in amount of tape are voluntary.

After viewing the new tape arrangement, State Senator Patty Ritchie says that “you can spot them much better than you could” with the lesser amount, as she describes in the video below (removed).

The new arrangement still needs approval from the full county legislature.

An Acceptable Solution

After hearing about the county’s desire that Amish adopt the orange SMV triangle, I predicted that would be a non-starter.

The Amish in St. Lawrence County are part of the Swartzentruber affiliation. Unlike most other Amish groups, the Swartzentruber Amish have long been staunchly against the triangle, and I don’t know of any that have ever conceded on the gaudy symbol.

I see this as a clever solution which can satisfy English demands rooted in the logic of safety and visibility, but which can also be more easily accepted by change-wary Amish–after all it’s simply doing more of what they already do.


We’d have to ask them to be sure, but I’d guess the boldest part of the change from the Amish perspective is adding the tape to other areas of the buggy where it wasn’t previously used (the right side, as well as the carriage shaft)–more so than just increasing the amount of tape was increased.

Ironically, this may even turn out to be a safer solution than simply adding an orange triangle to the existing arrangement. As a point in the article states: “The increased rear markings will more completely trace buggies’ outlines, making them more easily recognizable after dark and improving visibility.”

Cory Anderson’s article on buggy safety markings also suggests that the triangle may even increase certain types of accidents due to something called the “moth effect”, with a tape-and-lantern combination possibly being the superior arrangement.

Even The Most Traditional Adapt

The Swartzentruber Amish are often held up here and elsewhere as examples of the most strict and rarely-bending segment of Amish society.

It’s good to recognize that with this example, even the most conservative Amish occasionally adapt to external pressures. Leaders’ willingness to change to preserve harmony with English neighbors, and hopefully improve safety while holding the line on the most important points, is commendable.

Did the concern for other, non-Amish people sway them? Did they simply choose the more palatable of the alternatives, in order to stave off pressure to take on the offensive SMV triangle? Whatever the answer might be, hopefully this step will help improve safety for both Amish buggy riders and their English neighbors.


Finally, this change also raises the question of whether Swartzentruber Amish in other states will eventually adopt similar standards of increased reflective tape, following the example of the Heuvelton group.

If the changes show accidents to be reduced and visibility improved, perhaps authorities in other Swartzentruber areas will lobby for the increased markings. As of 2011, Swartzentruber Amish were found in over 40 settlements in 15 states.

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply to Terry from Wisc Cancel reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Roy Terry

      Heuvelton Amish To Nearly Double Safety Tape on Buggies

      We live among the Swarztentruber Amish in Oswego County and have been encouraging our friends in the settlement here to begin using more tape, particularly on the front of their buggies, where the need is greatest. We have witnessed multiple near-collisions between motorized vehicles and practically invisible oncoming buggies.

      Our friends have been upgrading their lanterns for some time, now. The ones in current use appear as bright as the taillights (not brake lights, though) of a typical car.

      Hopefully, the proposed solution will pass the St. Lawrence County Legislature. Their action would make it more likely that it could be adopted here.

      1. Since reflective tape is already accepted by Swartzentruber groups, this may be the most feasible way to gradually increase visibility for those buggies (assuming it does in fact do that, which logic says it would). It’s always easier to do a little more of what you are already doing, than start with something completely new.

        Roy, are they also painting the interior of the lanterns white to achieve that brightness?

        And just curious, have your friends been swayed by your encouragement to add more tape to their vehicles?

        Thanks for the note from another corner of NY.

        1. Roy Terry

          Reply to Erik

          The new lantern my friend Peter showed me was made in Williamstown, NY, I believe, by an Amishman there who fabricates sheet metal roofing and the like. The exterior was, of course, black, but the interior was (as I recall) just the grayish silver underside of the steel used for roofing. Although an occasional cleaning would help when kerosene is burned (a cleaner-burning lamp oil is preferred), no painting would be required.

          The big difference between the new lanterns and the old ones is in the lenses, which allow more light to shine through them. I wonder whether that’s because the new lenses are just cleaner than the old, have a fresnel design that the old ones lacked, are of a lighter shade of red than the old ones, or are made of clearer glass or plastic.

          I’m not sure that we’ve swayed anyone in the community to add more tape, but I’m sure that our sometimes emotional comments have been carried into church discussions, as we are known by several in the district. It may help that my wife and I dress conservatively and are older than nearly everyone in the settlement.

          A number of the local Amish came from Huevelton and still have family there, so what happens in St. Lawrence County will likely affect practices or at least a willingness to change here.

    2. Terry from Wisc

      Safer buggies

      Some years ago I was visiting Amish friends outside my hometown on a Sunday evening, a day for the Amish to go visiting. On my way home around 10:00 pm I almost hit a horse with harness on, but no buggy! After my heart stopped racing I decided it best to inform someone. A farm that had a long driveway was the next place, and there were two headlights coming toward the road. I thought that the headlights were set to high to belong to a car, so I waited to find out who/what it was. Well, it was a buggy,and I thought, how great to have head lights on it! I informed them of the horse I had encountered, and on my way I went.

      That event has always been one that I have remembered because it was the first time I saw head lights on a buggy. A black buggy full of family members on a dark night, can be a dangerous thing!

      When the Amish first moved into the area where I hail from, it was a learning adventure for all. After some close encounters folks started complaining to the authorities about the hazards of buggies on the road at night. At the time all they had was a lantern with a red globe on the side of a buggy that was lit at night. Hardly enough of a warning. Then came the orange triangle debate and the Amish finally caved and put them on their buggies and wagons, and the community said, yeah! 🙂

      Romans 13:1-3 Obey Those in Authority

      All of you must obey those who rule over you. There are no authorities except the ones God has chosen. Those who now rule have been chosen by God. 2 So whoever opposes the authorities opposes leaders whom God has appointed. Those who do that will be judged. 3 If you do what is right, you won’t need to be afraid of your rulers. But watch out if you do what is wrong! You don’t want to be afraid of those in authority, do you? Then do what is right, and you will be praised.

      I realize this passage is open to debate, but it WAS the authorities that encouraged the Amish to make their buggies safer.

      Safe in Christ, Terry from Wisc

    3. Alice Mary

      Interesting interpretation, Terry, though I’d still need to be convinced that some “authorities” (Hitler, for one) were chosen by God (and not that “other” entity). But it’s good to see compromise when it comes to safety in this instance. (Too bad some of those in authority, God-chosen or otherwise, can’t learn to do the same!)

      Alice Mary

    4. Mark - Holmes Co.

      Interesting. I’m glad they were able to come with some ideas that might work for everyone.
      I wonder if they would use reflective nylon harness material? I’ve never thought to look. When we got our last harness we could choose the option of having reflective nylon tape added to the nose-band and brow-band. You don’t notice it (I guess unless you are looking for it) until it is shined on at night and then it really reflects nicely. Now we have seen in a harness catalog from PA new harnesses with this reflective material sewn over much of the harness. In the daylight it’s not really noticeable. The next time we need a harness, I would like that kind. I’m guessing it helps most on the side-view as from the front there would really only be the bands on the bridle and a choke-strap (if using a collar) that could be covered with this reflector tape.

      1. Harriet

        Hey Mark. Out of curiosity, how much does a new harness cost? Not just the harness, I guess I’m wondering what it would cost to get all of the leather, rings, etc. (City girl…can’t you tell? Ha!!) I often see the price of the buggy and/or the horse/s, but I’ve never seen what the other stuff costs.

        1. Mark - Holmes Co.

          Sorry, Harriet, I must have missed this one. It probably appeared in “recent comments” on a day off and was “bumped down” by my next computer visit. A new nylon harness like we use (split-breast strap & overcheck on the bridle) will set you back about $450. It will likely have everything on it except maybe a lead strap. There are various options for the nylon (like high-gloss, semi, or dull finish) and though most have some chrome “spots”, there may be a higher price for extra “spotting.” Same with the lines, those come in various ways: braided leather, glove leather without braiding, a textured rubber coating, etc.
          Other things one needs: a tie-rope and halter to leave on the buggy, a winter lap robe and most people also keep a lightweight robe for milder but still cool weather, and a stable blanket to cover the horse when tied up in cold weather.
          I hope that answers your question. Have a good day!

          1. Harriet

            Thanks, Mark. It is pricey, but still a lot cheaper than a car!! There is probably a lot more maintenance with a horse. I could easily give up driving a car, but taking care of a horse would not be at the top of my “can’t wait to do list”!!!

            Six more weeks until I’m in Holmes County. I can hardly wait!! I would love to meet you, your wife and Rebecca while I am there. It would be nice to put a face with the name.

            Have a great week-end.

    5. I love the Amish lifestyle. Can I join your community with my wife?

      I love the Amish lifestyle. Can I join your community with my wife? We can start a community here in Tasmania. We have the only Mennonite community here in Australia in Deloraine.
      Plenty of horses here and buggy makers not a problem.
      Not joking –

    6. Jeannie

      I am thrilled that some are conceding to see this is about safety for all, much easier to see them in the evening with a triangle vs not. I live here in the North Country(Jefferson County)and I have had my fair share of not seeing them at night here on the road I live on( There are several families in my neck of the woods). Some folks have them and some do not…. I prefer that they do just makes it safer and courteous.

    7. Liz


      Would a jammer be posible or an alert be viable. With some type of a proximitr sensor in place it could broadcast an alert message to any one with a cell phone or using their radio.

      it would be similar to a radar detector alert

      just a thought.