Man Hits Amish Horse In The Dark, Survives

This happened over the weekend in central Michigan. Via UpNorthLive:

ISABELLA COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) — A 65-year-old Blanchard man is recovering at the hospital after he was unable to avoid a loose horse in the roadway, hitting it with his car.

The horse was killed in the crash.

According to Michigan State Police, he was driving west on Blanchard Road around 5 a.m. Saturday morning when he suddenly noticed five horses near the roadway.

As he passed the group of horses, one ran into the roadway and was struck. The man was unable to avoid the collision, and the horse died at the scene.

How did the horse get loose? It turns out a tree fell on the Amish family’s fence overnight. This allowed them to escape the property and roam around.

This happened very early in the morning – 5am – when it is still dark out. So more like nighttime, in terms of visibility.

It does happens that horses and livestock get loose and end up on roadways and need to be retrieved. You hear about it often enough from Amish farmers. You also have situations like the one in this photo to be aware of:

As reader Connie Kiers notes, “This is not such an odd occurrence. I have stood on the road many times when it was time to bring the cows home for milking, or when it was time to move the cows from one pasture to another. The road watcher has to make sure that cars are aware of the cows coming down the road AND that none of them make a break and run.”

There’s also this situation to be aware of, which we might call a “false alarm”. It’s an older photo and a little hard to read but the sign on the utility pole says “Horses are not loose”. The owner “was tying his horses to the outside of his fence and put up this sign either yesterday or today. He must have been getting reports from passersby that his horses were loose.”

Horses are Heavy

The man in the Michigan accident was described as having “minor injuries”. I’d say he got lucky there. I happened to hit a deer while driving in a very rural section of NC, at night, this past winter. Fortunately for me, I was in a high-riding pickup truck. I escaped unscathed, as did the truck, mostly.

While the deer I hit was maybe 200 pounds in size at most, a horse is multiples heavier than that, depending on what type it is. A standardbred horse is one of the most common buggy horses, and ranges from about 800 to 1000 pounds. If the horses were draft horses, the kind used for farm work, that can be up to 2000 pounds. But I kind of doubt he hit one of those, given that he made it out with minor injuries.

Some things you can’t really prevent, and it comes down to luck and happenstance. But just another reminder to be a bit more vigilant than normal when driving in Amish areas.

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    1. Joe

      Not cows, but sheep

      Once while on an RV trip in Utah, we were held up for a bit by a herd of sheep being moved down the road, along with the little cabin on wheels that the shepherd lives in. Fun, especially since we were on vacation and weren’t in a hurry.

    2. Kensi Blonde

      Poor horses!

      These poor horses! These people CHOOSE to drive dangerously and irrationally but the animals don’t! Disgusting and should be illegal.

    3. john

      Horse accident

      The driver of the vehicle was very lucky.. I have driven through Northern Ontario and seen where a car/truck hit a moose and because the legs were so tall the hood of the car/truck went under the body of the moose and everything ended up in the passenger compartment and the drivers where killed. I feel sorry for the horse but also for the Amish farmer as that will be a big blow to him to replace the horse.

    4. Horse being hit

      Since it was mentioned the person hitting the horse saw a group of them out that person should of STOPPED and clearly analyze the situation. Speed limit should be 10 miles an hour and could of prevented this tragic situation. Their could of been cows or herd of deer on rode. Drivers need to be more careful especially in amish territory. So sorry for the horse and the person hurt.

    5. Assuming the driver is to blame isn't fair

      I’m not a driver, but I grew up in a rural area, and I really do not think it usually takes bad or careless driving to hit an animal under these sorts of conditions. Horses are often very difficult to see at night. And this type of animal is primarily adapted to deal with predation. When faced with a predator, jumping suddenly in an unpredictable direction, including obliquely or even towards the perceived threat, is often the best strategy. It is the worst thing to do when faced with a moving car, because it makes it very hard for the driver to avoid collision.

      “That person should of STOPPED and clearly analyze the situation,” is making a lot of assumptions about the length of time he had to make a decision regarding what to do before he was next to the animals, and that he had actually observed that the animals were loose and not on the field side of the fence or properly tethered. Which is what I would expect a driver to assume in the sort of countryside that seems to be described in default of something very obviously wrong, unless there is an “animals in the road” warning. Context does matter. I grew up on the edge of the New Forest in England, where unattended stock does wander about on the roads – to say nothing of the deer. But as far as I know both facts are well signposted. And for comparison, the actual speed limit there was 40 miles per hour on unfenced roads.

      Making an emergency stop next to a horse when it is not necessary may not be the best idea, given that they are liable to freak out about the unexpected. And doing anything abrupt and unpredictable is liable to be a risk with regard to other road users. One of my family used to be a very nervous driver, to the point of slowing down unpredictably in situations where it wasn’t rational, and others in my family used to say that it was MORE risky than driving steadily, because other road users didn’t expect it.

      In short, such a situation involves an extremely complicated judgement call, which the driver probably had very little time to make. I would argue that he should be assumed innocent, socially as well as legally, unless it is formally demonstrated that he had broken some definite rule of the road.

      As to putting extremely low speed limits in place on the basis of an occasional incident of this sort, the best way of avoiding car accidents would be to forbid anyone to drive at all: that is, there is always a balance to be struck between risks and advantages. Apart from the practical realities for people of being on the road so very much longer, or being unable to travel, combustion engines are generally more efficient at higher speeds (up to about 55 miles per hour, I think). Besides, why lower the speed limit in particular? Law could demand that anyone keeping horses near a road must have a double fence and cut down all nearby trees. Or that the highway agency must separately fence all roads with a stock proof fence. Whether the risk is accepted as low enough, and which thing should be done to increase safety if it is judged that the risk needs further lowering, are also complicated matters.

    6. Dolores

      Common sense helps

      I’m sorry if this seems cold, but common sense says when you see loose livestock OR deer on the side of the road…SLOW DOWN TO A CRAWL!! It is a guarantee that one will shoot out in front of you, especially if you continue at a higher rate of speed! And especially with deer. If you see 1 cross the road, slow down…there is a very good chance there are more that will follow.

      1. Clarification

        I’m not sure if this was written in reply to me or not, but if so, I want to clarify: I entirely agree that it is common sense to slow down, IF you SEE loose livestock or wild deer on or close to a road in sufficient time to do so.

        The assumption I object to is that the driver necessarily was or could have been AWARE of the actual situation in time to do anything about it, either at all, or without causing a secondary accident risk, with the implied or stated blame of said driver attached to that.

        The situation sounds like one where the most reasonable assumption (and the appropriate assumption of innocence unless something else can be proved) is that the driver in this case was too close to slow down enough before it became apparent that the horses were there and not properly fenced or tethered. This is particularly likely with night time levels of visibility. (“John” is saying almost exactly the same thing as me, I think).

        I agree that people should be very careful when driving around animals. However, these things can be freak accidents with the driver not to blame, because there are so many complexities involved in real driving conditions.

    7. john

      Horse accident

      I find it interesting that when the person who saw the horses running around they should slow down to 10 mph if he was going the speed limit of say 45-55 mph and it was dark and no street lights on the road he problem did not see them until the last moment and by the time he would slow down it was to late. I have driven in northern Michigan may times and see flocks of turkeys try to cross the expressway 127 on a busy weekend and traffic was going 70 mph plus and they tried to walk across the expressway can’t expect people to slam their brakes on to avoid hitting them and would cause more accidents. I have had family members almost get rear ended because a squirrel ran in front of them and slammed the brakes on to avoid hitting the squirrel and driver behind them had to slam his brakes on to avoid a accident. We need to be careful but remember they are animals who are unpredictable.

    8. BH

      Typical in rural areas

      We’ve lived in rural areas in states with no Amish in the county or state, and have seen chickens, pigs, calves, cows, and bulls loose on the road, in addition to deer. Ironically, my parents live in a highly populated metropolitan area, and they had a cow loose in their neighborhood! It had traveled miles from one of the only remaining farms in the area. So, you never know!

      I’m sorry to hear the driver was hurt and the horse was killed!