Ohio Lawmakers Explain Buggy Light Law Without Explaining The Hardest Part

The two sponsors of the new Ohio horse-drawn transport lighting law, state representatives Scott Wiggam and Darrell Kick, recently addressed the new stipulation that all horse-drawn transport have flashing lights affixed to the top of the vehicle:

“The bottom line is, we believe fully that this will save lives,” Wiggam said. “The speed differential is just too great.”

Kick agreed.

“The objective is to reduce crashes,” Kick said. “In Holmes County, we are pretty progressive on our lighting and extra highway paving on the side of the roads. It is a lot different in many other areas throughout the state.

“In northern Ashland County and into western Medina and even into Wayne County near West Salem, there are a lot of old order Amish who are just not up to speed on the technology of the better reflective tape for the morning and evening, and light selections similar to what’s on top of a school bus,” he added. “We have a manufacturer in Wayne County that doesn’t sell buggies without that on there already.”

To me it just sounds oddly flippant to reduce the objections of the Amish in those areas (and have no doubt he means the Swartzentruber Amish) to them being “just not up to speed” on their lighting. It suggests not understanding their long and sometimes painful history of staunchly refusing to use the types of visibility aids that 90%+ of other Amish readily use, and why they take that position.

Ohio

As I explained in a recent post, the Swartzentruber Amish (Ohio has the country’s largest population), do not and have never used flashing lights, and do not even accept the orange SMV triangle.

And I’m kind of baffled this hasn’t been addressed directly in any coverage or statements that I have found from the lawmakers. I wrote both of them over two years ago asking about it, though didn’t hear back. Which is fine; I didn’t really expect to hear back. But I’m surprised it has not been addressed publicly anywhere I’ve seen. In any case, I was done really covering this topic, until this article popped up and made me scratch my head again. There is also this odd bit:

“We’re just trying to reduce the numbers of deaths of people riding in buggies,” Kick said. “The numbers are being updated regularly.”

Wiggam added that flashing lights are helpful and used for special things.

“We put flashing yellow lights on things we love, from school buses to ambulances, and we put flashing lights on emergency vehicles, police and fire,” he said. “Everything we love, we put flashing lights on, especially when you’re talking about scenarios where something bad can happen.

“The speed differential of 35 to 50 miles per hour, something really bad has happened quite often in the state of Ohio, and we want to reduce that,” Wiggam continued. “We think this can be done pretty easily now with the technology available. That’s kind of where we are on this issue. We want to save lives. We all share the roads, and this issue spurred me to move forward with this.”

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate their wish to save lives. I’m just confused with the “love” explanation. It feels like how you’d explain something to a child. Yes, we love people. But rather than the emotional-trigger reasoning it would it would probably do more good to address the plainest Amish groups’ safety issues more realistically.

It seems like they might be able to make more actual headway with Swartzentruber Amish in the state by promoting a solution that other Swartzentruber Amish have shown themselves to actually adopt, like in communities in North Carolina or Tennessee. Rather than one they’re not going to adopt, ie, the new flashing light, which I’ve also seen described as a “strobe”.

I find this rather weird that it’s not really addressed in any way, but I’m not planning to press it. I’m just going to assume this is going to end up a look-the-other-way situation when it comes to those groups. Or the citations will go out but they’ll go unpaid, and end up ignored by everyone involved.

Tennessee

Which is fine I guess, but it might be more constructive and potentially life-saving to help those groups find a solution that is more likely that they would accept, rather than saying they’re just “not up to speed” and implementing a law that they’re not going to adhere to.

For instance: either of what I’m labeling here as the NC or TN solutions (added blocks of bright white reflective materials, and PVC piping attached to the wheels creating a natural non-electric “strobe” effect). A Swartzentruber Amishman in North Carolina whose community adopted one of these told me that he felt it improved visibility, for what that’s worth. And the more important point, they actually put it into action (which they’re not going to do as far as the flashing lights).

North Carolina

Also for what it’s worth, I can add from my own experience seeing both of these solutions in person – the white area certainly stands out on the black back of the buggy, and the PVC pipes do create an attention-getting oscillating effect on the road.

But, maybe I am totally wrong about this, and the Swartzentruber Amish will all comply and soon affix the flashing lights to their vehicles en masse for the first time ever in their history. There is this bit from the article, a statement by Representative Kick: “But we’re still going to have some bishops that aren’t happy with it. We’ve had bishops tell us they will abide by the law; they just don’t want to see it happen.” I will be highly surprised to see this, as it will be to my knowledge without precedent for this group. But, I guess we’ll see what happens.

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    12 Comments

    1. Al Cantwell

      Safe for all

      Whoever uses the public roads — bicyclists, motorcyclists, joggers, mopeds, scooters, buggies — need to all follow and respect the same laws, and those laws should apply to everyone equally, without a religious or any other objection. It’s simply a requirement for using the public infrastructure. The Swartzentruber argument that the SMV triangle and flashing lights are a human invention, therefore unacceptable to them, is not logical when the very road they travel is also very much a human invention. While the good bishops may be fatalistic when it comes to taking chances on the public way, the vast majority of travelers are not so fatalistic. Allowing horse-drawn conveyances upon the public way shows tolerance and respect for religious minorities. These religious minorities ought to reciprocate by following the same rules all others must obey.

    2. Gregory Stutzman

      Amen to Al Cantwell's comment

      Having been born and raised in Holmes County, whenever I now visit there I marvel that I made it through my first years of driving alive and unmaimed. The curves and hills through which the secondary roads wind are certainly one reason, but the buggies on the roads exacerbate those dangers by a factor of 2 or 3. If the Swartzies can’t follow the law, don’t let them use the roads.

    3. Walter Boomsma

      It's about the approach...

      It seems that most politicians are not problem solvers, they are law passers and power grabbers. As the article itself suggests, some dialog would have been in order. The word “compromise” is disappearing from our vocabulary.

      I have never had a close call with an Amish Buggy. I have had some frightening encounters with pedestrians dressed in dark clothing and walking along the side of the road. Perhaps these politicians will next pass a law requiring pedestrians to wear helmets with flashing lights on top?

      This is just more “feel good” legislation that won’t create better drivers. And it has been passed at the expense of relationships and individual rights. I wonder how we would feel if the Amish were lobbying for laws forcing us to live the way they do.

      1. Yes, this. The “love” language was 100% feel-good.

        I also noticed they use this blanket term “Old Order” in kind of a weird and I think revealing way. I see this somewhat erroneously used sometimes when people talk about the plainest Amish like the Swartzentrubers. “Old Order” sounds like the most plain description you could use to describe the most hard-core Amish to someone who doesn’t know much about the Amish. When it really has a different meaning depending on the context.

        So I wonder how much they in fact knew about the different groups and the nuances while promoting this bill. If you really care about saving lives the nuances matter when it comes to actually getting people to take action to increase safety.

        I see too much of this attitude of “we’re just going to force them to do it” rather than trying to find an alternative that respects them but also increases safety. And I have provided two examples of that where visibility-improving alternatives have actually been put into practice in these Swartzentruber communities in other states.

        The other thing about this is that we could always take things a step further. Why not a disco ball on top of every buggy? Sounds ridiculous but I use it only to make a point. It’s really about finding a balance – something that will actually be implemented (in other words the parties involved accept it, otherwise it is just ignored, or we can have another 2011 Kentucky SMV situation or worse) that is also acceptable cost-wise while helping reduce risk in a meaningful way.

        1. Like it or not it's now a law

          Come on what if we all acted that way same ass seat belts , helmets and so on I remember how we felt about it didn’t like it but it’s a law and it does save lives and les injuries

    4. Rules

      Follow the rules people, and just put the light/sign and kept moving. Don’t you want to KEEP YOUR FAMILY AND OTHERS SAFE ON THE ROAD? This is best for all of us.

    5. Rebecca

      Common ground

      It saddens me to read the comments because it obviates that people do not understand core principles of being Amish. Asking them to put a flashing light on the top of their buggy would be a kin to asking those who are making these one-sided comments to give up their electronics and live off the land for a year. These are faith-based principles this group of individuals have carried for hundreds of years. When people make comments about them complying they are thinking of only their own personal comfort level so they can drive faster and see the buggy without having to slow down until the last second. Emotional responses had become the norm. There is no compromise anymore. No meeting people at their level. It’s “my way or the highway” mentality. I live in Pennsylvania Dutch country and have accommodated their buggies for years. I would much rather accommodate them than most of the other insane nonsense that happens on our roads today.

    6. J.O.B.

      Drivers/cars are the bigger problem.

      I think it’s a good example of how people have become lazy, selfish, and impatient.

      The Amish are in my way so stay off ‘my road.’

      When in reality, the road is too be shared by cars AND buggies AND bikes,..

      Cars and their drivers are far more dangerous than horse drawn buggies.

      Are people slowing down to follow the speed limit? Many still speed.

      Are people putting down the cell phone while driving? Many still use the phone while driving.

      Are people still drinking and driving? Many still drink and drive.

      How many people die each year due to speeding, reckless driving, drinking and driving?

      And people want to complain about the horse and buggy? Maybe there are too many cars on the road with irresponsible drivers.

      1. And sadly I think we’ve seen the quality of driving decline in general in recent years. The influx of autonomous features in cars in recent years (lane assist and self-driving-inclined features) on some level annoy me but on a macro level I’m glad we have them if everyone is going to be texting and generally distracted. With buggies there is definitely a give-and-take here that I think some don’t want to acknowledge.

      2. Please

        I’ve had many close calls with buggies and it’s really hard to believe that there isn’t more Fatalities then there are they too on there cell phones , drink , passed out thank god the horse knows the way home Amish are not the angels some of you think they are

    7. Chris H

      Full Stop.

      Please stop jacking with these people. It’s commendable they just want to be left alone and live a peaceful life. We should perhaps learn something from them. That is all.