KY legislators to the rescue of Swartzentruber Amish?

There’s another possible out for Swartzentruber Amish in Kentucky who refuse the SMV triangle–a change in state law.

The Bowling Green Daily News reported Saturday that members of the Kentucky General Assembly were considering a change in regulations covering the SMV insignia.

The trials of 5 Amishmen in Logan County, set for Friday, were accordingly postponed til March. The “legislation…introduced in both houses of the Kentucky General Assembly…would change the law to allow for the display of silver or white reflective tape on slow-moving vehicles”.

There have been SMV cases in at least 3 counties in Kentucky over the past year, with Amish sent to jail again following last week’s sentencing in Graves County.

Rep. Jim DeCesare said he lent support to the issue after being contacted by Amish. “I thought their solution in lieu of using the triangular sign was a reasonable one and I got behind it,” he explains in the Daily News article. “I feel that if there’s a legitimate reason for them and their beliefs and if they’ve got a viable alternative, then why not allow it?”

Amish, politics, and public sentiment

As of Monday morning here, our Amish America poll is showing about 3/4 of respondents saying Amish should “reconsider” the SMV triangle, with 1/4 saying they should be left alone.  I don’t know how closely that result matches public opinion in Kentucky, or in the sponsoring representatives’ districts for that matter.

farm implement amish smv
Horse-drawn farm equipment also lacks the SMV triangle

If popular sentiment in KY is more or less the same, the move may turn out to be politically unpopular for the representatives. Though I don’t think this issue would even be on the radar for most Kentuckians, had it not gotten the high-profile coverage that it has. So it may be a “safe” unpopular issue to take up, politically speaking.

For some, the SMV sign is not really even the point.  On last Friday’s post, reader Nancy comments: “This is a fascinating discussion: belief vs safety. Frankly, I am torn…No sign whether it is on the side of the road telling motorist to be cautious, or SMV signs on the back of a buggy has the power to slow some motorists down. Speed, drug, alcohol, texting, chatting on a cell-phone — distracted driving has more to do with accidents, IMHO.”

Either way, there’s a near-zero chance that the Swartzentruber Amish here would decide the SMV triangle is okay after all.  Lance comments: “Whether you agree with either of those religious practices is not part the argument here. The point is the Amish that do not accept SMV signs will NOT change their stance anymore than any other unique religious practice. They would rather all die in accidents or persecution than to change their religion. There simply is no room to compromise as the Amish see nothing to compromise on.”

Katie Troyer wondered why they didn’t simply move to friendlier pastures: “I remember when Amish moved to Nebraska and had trouble over school etc. Rather than fight or cause a big fuss, the moved out of the state.” Apparently they are willing to take their chances in the legal sphere, either in the courts or via legislation.

Working with the law

Amish have a history of working behind-the-scenes with lawmakers. The Amish Steering Committee is a body consisting of Amish leaders which has taken up representation of the Amish in matters having potential impact on Amish nationwide. The Steering Committee has lobbied for allowances in a wide range of issues including alternative wartime service, the wearing of hard hats on job sites, and schooling.

Since this is a much more localized issue–and since Amish differ over the triangle, with the majority accepting it–it seems unlikely the Steering Committee would become involved.

The Steering Committee’s activities notwithstanding, Amish typically shy away from active politicking, a stance informed by Two Kingdoms beliefs.  Highly conservative Swartzentruber Amish seem the least likely to dip their toes into the political sphere, but they’re apparently willing to do so here, and have been getting assistance from the Kentucky ACLU.

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    1. Richard from Amish Stories

      Erik it sounds to me like they both may be close to a compromise of sorts on this issue, and since I’m a big safety type of guy i say lets try the reflective tape on those Amish buggies and see if its effective enough. I’m not sure what the accident rate is in that particular Amish community, but the tape sounds better than having nothing at all. But sometimes in my mind general safety for all must trump religious belief sometimes, but i do believe in trying to meet someone half way on some issue’s, and for me this is one of those sometimes! Richard

    2. SharonR

      KY Legislators to the rescue of Swartzentruber Amish

      Am glad someone is considering a compromise; The Amish deserve that much. While in Pennsylvania, I saw some buggies with the silver reflective tapes, and it actually helped in seeing the buggy, as you came upon them, in the roads. Some also had the triangles, too, and some were using both. The fact of the matter is, we all share the road, and takes little effort to slow down, when we see a slow moving vehicle, whether it be a bicycle, horse/buggy, slow moving car, or even someone riding in their “scooter chair” (like we see in FLorida!), but they all are doing the best they can, to try to stay over, if there is room on the shoulder of the road. If not, then slow up and quit getting your blood pressure up!

    3. Enhanced road safety instruction?

      When I got my driver’s license, I remember the actual road safety instruction part being minimal at best. I wonder if greater emphasis on that would help.

      I got my license in urban/suburban Raleigh, NC, but it seems like it would make more sense in rural DMVs/licensing centers.

      That said I am skeptical that extra instruction would have much influence on fast driver types.

    4. Roberta

      Swartzentruber Amish

      I hope that Kentucky changes the law to allow silver or white reflective tape on buggies to replace the triangle. And then I hope that it serves as a legal precedence for other places. Yes, people who live around here are aware that there are buggies on the road but the state highway (speed limit 55) that runs through here connects the New York State Thruway and the Adirondack Park where half the traffic is just passing through.

      P.S. If enough Amish lived in a certain area, could they get the speed limit changed to 30 mph?

    5. Wm Justice

      The Mississippi legislature made a provision in the law (Miss. Code Ann. § 63-7-99), I believe in 1999, to allow slow moving vehicles to use “high intensity reflectorized tape.” It is my understanding that this was specifically enacted to prevent the Swartzentruber Amish in Randolph from being arrested.

    6. Lance

      I am glad that this change to the law is being proposed. I really truly hope it passes, and as others have said that it presents a precedent to other states.

      Thank you KY legislatures.

    7. Merry

      The bottom line

      I’m glad the KY legislators are revisiting this issue. Call me goofy but doesn’t it seem that if the triangular SMV sign is an absolutely necessary form of safety requirement, wouldn’t it be reasonable that those who are pushing for enforcement of that particular form of warning have a responsibility to provide conclusive statistical data supporting their position? They could easily enough review the data (over the past 5 years or so) of incidents involving slow moving farm equipment and buggies, determine with and without the the bright orange triangular signs to determine which were more frequently struck from behind.

      Perhaps all legislators ought to revisit the penalties for those driving at excessive speeds through posted SMV areas.

    8. Forest

      I think some type of reflective sign/tape and/or lights is essential for SMVs at night. During the daytime, the problem is, I think, motorists drive too fast and misjudge the speed of the buggy and are on top of it before they realize it. That then is an educational or enforcement issue. I don’t have a buggy, but I have had similar experiences with my tractor on the paved road. People not used to SMV don’t understand how slowly they move. Now personally, I think that if a person doesn’t notice a big bright green John Deere, he probably won’t notice the SMV triangle, but I keep it one there because it’s the law… I hope they can come up with a reaonable compromise in Ky, that will keep all parties involved safe and allow the Swartzentrubers to stay within the State law and the trachings of their particular group.

    9. Marcus Yoder

      A man hit my trailer while parked,his wife thought that since i did’nt have an orange cone it was my fault. My trailer is bright red. I told her if you can’t see the red trailer,how would see the orange cone? Marcus Yoder

      1. OldKat

        Too logical ...

        There you go being all logical again Marcus!!! (Insert smiley face here)

        It is amazing the things people will come up with to rationalize their actions when they know they are wrong. Just curious; how did the lady respond to your question?

        1. Marcus Yoder

          She did’nt reply, she said she was going to file an accident report. The next morning i filed one. Never heard from her again.Marcus Yoder

    10. Tom

      this is a link to the bill that can change the law to allow reflective tape instead of a orange triangle. You can follow this bill from the link i believe, as updates should be listed on the status.

    11. Lance


      Thank you for the link. I have it saved a favorite and will follow along!

    12. Tom


      You are welcome Lance. I noticed this morning the Lexington Herald Leader, which is the main newspaper for Lexington KY, has a update on the law, apparently law makers discussed the bill yesterday, here is a link.