Should Amish Buggies Have Car Safety Features – Like Seat Belts? (Updated: Ordinance Fails)

Should Amish be required to install seat belts and other safety features common to motor vehicles?

Aaron Newswanger died when his buggy was struck in Clark County in 2016. A startled horse was to blame in the accident. Photo courtesy of the Clark County Sheriff’s Dept.

That’s the idea behind a new ordinance up for consideration tomorrow in Wood County, Wisconsin:

Horse-drawn vehicles would need windshields, seat belts, child car seats and rear-view mirrors if officials in Wisconsin’s Wood County pass an ordinance that will be considered Tuesday.

Amish and other religious groups that rely on animal-pulled buggies in Wood County also would need to get driver’s licenses and vehicle insurance under the measure.

Officials say it’s about Amish safety:

The proposal is intended to save lives, said County Board of Supervisors member Bill Winch of Vesper, who helped to draft the new rules. Nine people have died in crashes involving horse-drawn buggies and wagons in and around Wood County since 2009, and Winch said it’s an ongoing concern.

“The Amish have been getting killed and obviously nobody liked that,” he said.

The ordinance requires drivers of animal-drawn vehicles to obey the same regulations the rest of the people on the roads are expected to follow, Winch said. If the board approves the measure, operators of horse buggies would have to get a driver’s license from the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles.

However, Amish and PA Dutch language expert Mark Louden sees the proposal differently:

“There is no middle ground with this at all,” Louden said after reading the proposed ordinance. “It’s completely impractical.”

The Amish would consider buying liability insurance or getting driver’s licenses a violation of their beliefs and values, he said.

If the ordinance passes, and Amish residents of Wood County start receiving tickets or getting arrested, they would move to another county or state, Louden said.

“All I can think of is if they pass this, they don’t want the Amish in Wood County,” Louden said.

Tragic road accidents are common among the Amish. Nine related deaths in the area in the past eight years seems quite a lot.

Wood County itself has a relatively small Amish population, with just 2 small settlements as of 2013. This tally of nine deaths takes in surrounding counties’ settlements, of which there are quite a few.

For instance, neighboring Clark County has several sizeable Amish settlements, including a Swartzentruber community. Several of the deaths occurred there.

An Amish buggy travels down a Clark County, WI backroad. Photo by William Garrett

The total likely also includes at least one non-Amish death, when a driver struck an unmanned horse-and-buggy which had gotten loose.

But would a seat belt even help in a buggy accident? Fiberglass or wood-bodied buggies by their nature are flimsy compared to a couple tons of steel traveling at 45+ mph. As awful as it sounds, would being thrown from a buggy be better than being strapped inside something so easily crushed?

The addition of the insurance requirement in particular indicates either that the county doesn’t really understand Amish thinking on insurance, or that as Louden suggests, they really don’t want them as residents any longer.

Wood County Board Chairman Lance Pliml, who said he actually hadn’t seen the revised ordinance, seemed to agree, saying the original concept was to require lighting and some driving education for buggy operators.

He suggested an operator’s license comparable to that mandated for snowmobiles – but that the rest of the ordinance would be “a tough sell.”

On the face of it, the stated purpose of concern for Amish safety is commendable. But the proposed solution doesn’t seem to take into account Amish tradition and beliefs (not to mention the question of whether the Amish were even brought into this discussion).

I also wonder how much of what is driving this bill may have been influenced by general frustration or other non-public issues with the Amish.

“We want to get these people who are driving buggies down the road, or carts, to obey the traffic laws,” said Michael Feirer, chairman of the County Board’s Public Safety Committee.

What do you think?

Update: The measure was defeated on Tuesday, failing to get enough support for a vote. Non-Amish residents came out in strong opposition to the measure, with some calling it “invasive” and “far-fetched”.

From the Wisconsin Rapids-Tribune:

The ordinance was drafted in part by County Board member Bill Winch of Vesper, who said it was proposed to save lives. It would have required animal-drawn vehicles to have windshields, seat belts, child car seats, rear-view mirrors, headlights and taillights, and manure bags attached to horses. It would also have required those who operate the carriages to have a driver’s license and vehicle insurance.

Drivers would have to be at least 16 years old and must have passed a written test showing basic knowledge involving public roads, Winch said in defending the proposal.

Winch made a motion to vote on the ordinance Tuesday, but none of the other 18 members of the Wood County Board seconded his motion, and the issue died.


After the motion failed, County Board Supervisor Brad Kremer of Pittsville said the ordinance was really about getting proper lights on buggies. He said the rest of the regulations could be eliminated.

Winch said he was responding to concerns from constituents about a rash of crashes involving horse-drawn vehicles in and around Wood County, causing nine deaths in less than nine years.

“I didn’t mean to cause all of this controversy,” he said Tuesday. “I do not dislike the Amish.”

Here’s video of the proceedings, with some strong words in support of the Amish:

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    1. andreas Ost

      Ordinance Nazis.

      The US has declined from a nation of freedom seeking individuals & groups (from the earliest colonists escaping the massive controls & slaughters by churches,Inquisition, kings & dictators) to one of a dictatorial demand for adherence to the whims of bureaucrats demanding irrational & UnAmerican slavery to their petty demands.
      Did millions of Americans fight England, Germany etc. for the “right” of Neo-Nazis bureaucrats to micro-manage our lives. So by Wood County standards, Those men wasted their lives.
      In this instance, the EXCUSE of safety is far from the real reason, point or basis. it is the drive & desire of small-minded insecure fascists to run(ruin) the lives of other people.
      Let us be frank. This is just old-fashion European religious persecution. Has everyone forgotten WWII! (One cannot expect people such as this to have ever heard of Inquisition, the Cather or Albigensian slaughters by the governments. Does anyone believe that those small tyrants care about Amish lives? & any rational person wonder? Are these people’s lives so small & desperate that they “need” to use force at gun point on their God-fearing neighbors. Truly pitiful.

      1. Abba Hawk


        A little intense letter. But re-reading it twice now, I find little to disagree with. the various Brethren Amish, Hutterites, Mennonites, had to leave Europe to not be wiped out. I do not want to even imagine what the Nazis in World war 2 would have done to them.
        the communities in Michigan & Indiana do have the orange triangles & tail lights or reflectors. I think I have noticed rear-view mirrors. The bicyclists wear orange or that startling green safety vest.
        I sort of startled at the gun point comment, but analyzed it. It is a truism, that Any law or regulation is maintained only by the use of armed force by officials or the threat of, with physical or civil force. Fines and taxes are collected only because the ordinary person will pay or be forced to do do.
        Mulling on all this and what is the moral stance by any real American? Letter one would hold that the officials in wood County are not real Americans. No need for comment on that. How far should the rest of us, go to protect the rights of minorities that we disagree religiously with? Where are all the ACLU and so-called liberals who should be picketing the board on this? Who said? something like “when the Nazis came after xxxx. I was not an xxx So I did not protest” etc “When the Nazis came after me, there was no one left to protest” . Some Protestant minister in Germany in 1940s?

        1. Jennifer Pierpan

          First They Came
          Pastor Martin Niemoller
          First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a Socialist
          Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews
          And I did not speak out
          Because I was not a Jew
          Then they came for me
          And there was no one left
          To speak out for me.

          1. Asia

            Except it’s the communists and socialists who are the ones going after others forcibly. History shows us that Communism and socialism has killed more people across the world, it is frightful to see it rising again in the US.

      2. Ken Tibbetts


        It wasn’t the government which ordered the slaughter of the Southern France contingent of 10s of thousands of Catherists, it was pope Innocent III who was the guilty one. The government, at that time in history consisted of the monarchy/aristocracy and the Catholic Church. Bigotry and prejudice has been around for thousands of years and it won’t go away very soon

      3. John herschberger

        The Should have been Approved.

        I am sorry. But the people posting nasty things about the town board should get there facts straight. It blows my mind how a war veteran would protect these people. Does everybody understand that they carry draft exemption cards in there wallet. They are taught to use religion to get out of anything they don’t agree with. Most have never even read the Bible. No different then accusing black people of pulling race card. Same thing. You better get your facts straight about these people before judging somebody else.

        1. Harry Hudak

          Amish Seatbelts

          InRe:John herschberger. I am a war veteran. As a matter of fact, I am a Marine Corps Retiree. I defended the Constitution for all Americans. Not just a few select individuals who happen to agree with my thoughts and convictions. I also support and defend those who disagree with me and what I may believe in. As long as we do it civilly and in good faith, that is what makes America great.

        2. A reader

          Does everybody understand that they carry draft exemption cards in there wallet. They are taught to use religion to get out of anything they don’t agree with. Most have never even read the Bible. No different then accusing black people of pulling race card. Same thing. You better get your facts straight about these people before judging somebody else.

          Please follow your own advice and get your facts straight

          I am Amish and do not carry a draft exemption card or know of anyone who does or ever heard of such a thing
          Read on requirements for ANY and ALL Americans seeking CO status
          I have read the Bible many times through and in 3 different languages
          I have never felt or believed my religion is to be used to get me out of “anything” I don’t agree with — I pay my taxes, obey the laws in my state & county even if I don’t like our property tax standards and there are other things I do not agree with but do anyhow, just like my friends and neighbors who are not Amish

          Please get your facts straight

        3. Alex Knisely

          "It blows my mind how a war veteran would protect these people."

          Probably not a bad thing. After the explosion, maybe light and fresh air would get in through the skull-cracks. **grin**

          Mr Hershberger said it for me: He fought to defend the nation, and her constitution. That nation includes persons like the Quakers, like the Amish, whose goal in this world is to live in the light of HIM whose spirit takes away the occasion for all wars, and who thus will not offer violence nor defend themselves against it. *** The standard that these “conscientious objectors” strive toward is higher than that toward which I can strive. But I honor and respect them for their goals and, yes, if they were threatened I’d protect them.

        4. Marcus Yoder

          Just so you know the draft was abolished in either 1972 or 1973

          1. Harry Hudak

            Draft abolished

            InRe: Marcus Yoder. FYI:

    2. Alex Knisely

      What are the traffic laws that buggy-drivers are not obeying?

      Render unto Caesar — my expectation is that if you asked Amishmen and Amishwomen, “Should the Amish obey the traffic laws?”, they’d say, “Yes. If they don’t ask us to do something against our religion.”

      So I’m surprised that some “English” folks in Wood County believe that the Amish are, as a group, mis-behaving.

      “We want to get these people who are driving buggies down the road, or carts, to obey the traffic laws,” said Michael Feirer, chairman of the County Board’s Public Safety Committee.

      I wonder what state law in Wisconsin mandates for non-motorized, animal-drawn vehicle operation. Maybe no one has looked at the old lawbooks, the ones written before internal combustion engines took over. Maybe the Amish ARE complying with laws that govern non-motorized, animal-drawn vehicle operation.

      If this is an attempt to extend motor-vehicle laws to buggies and carts… well.

      Orange triangles, running lights, and rear-view mirrors don’t seem like big asks. Seat belts — I’m for ’em, because I bet that to be thrown against something is bad news, whether it’s against the inside of the buggy or against the tarmac after sailing ten yards through the air. Infant / child seats — same argument. Maybe even licensure would work if it were linked to a horsemanship test; Amish restaurants and cheese plants let the health inspectors in, don’t they? “It’s so other people on the road can be sure that you’re well trained.” That might fly, phrased in terms of one’s duty to one’s fellows. Although where Wood County is going to find horse-and-buggy road-test administrators is a good question.

      But insurance… Goodbye, Wood County.

    3. Linda Queen

      More lights and safety belts

      There are a lot of Amish communities near my house. A couple of weeks ago a young 18 year old girl was killed and her brother critically injured after their buggy was hit by a truck. Both were ejected. I have been on a dark road and even when I know there are chances to meet a buggy they are so dimly lit you don’t realize what it is ahead. I’d like to see many more lights, reflective paint on the back so you know it is a vehicle and anything else that could warn other drivers. Also nothing wrong with having seat belts. A friend’s child was killed after a fall from a moving buggy. No one wants to restrict their religious freedom, but I for one would hate to be someone to hit a buggy and kill the occupants.

    4. Joseph

      Obey the law

      If you want to drive on public roads, then you need to obey the laws. Nobody is forcing you to drive on the roads. make your own roads, on your own land from Amish farm to Amish farm and then no one will say nothing. But other than that, why does everyone have to bow down to your religious beliefs? Why do people have to put their life at risk when they drive on a road that was made for cars and trucks because someone in a horse and buggy and the religious traditions are a hazard?

      1. Alex Knisely

        Reply to "Obey the law", from Joseph

        Hi, Joseph.

        In most settlements that I know of, the roads were there long ago, as dirt tracks, and were not made for cars and trucks — they were RE-WORKED for cars and trucks, that is, broadened, crowned, smooth-paved with asphalt, when motorized vehicles came in. Even if the first to use those roads were “English” and not “Amish”, the roads were dirt tracks. Couldn’t one argue that people who drive motorized vehicles should accommodate themselves to earlier / original practices, a sort of “They were there first”? Mind you, the Amish aren’t asking that. Although I’d be surprised if on roads where no “English” live the Amish are clamoring for greater motorized-vehicle accessibility; asphalt is hard on horses’ hooves, and the smoother the road the more likelihood that someone will race along it… Anyhow. To respect the Amish, to let them drive as they want to, is not in my eyes the same as to bow down to them. For me, to slow as I approach a hill-crest, because a buggy may be on the downhill side, has been a minor change in driving habits. I didn’t think that by doing so I was bowing down. Tell us more about why you chose that term, please.

        1. Jb

          I understand what he was saying

          America is full of rules and regulations. The amish religion itself is if you want to think about it. But that’s another discussion. I think there are way too many laws in america. Like children’s booster seats in cars. Its gotten ridiculous. Plus the fines for tickets. I choose not to drive these days however. The amish could make their own roads and be free from the laws of public roads. Back in the day more people rode horses then cars were invented and most people chose cars so the roads were adapted. It must have been a nice world without polluting cars but it does not exist now. The original poster made a good argument for developing roads in amish areas for buggy use. Fact is we all can claim varied religions or backgrounds but we’re all subjected to government mandates.

      2. Ken Tibbetts

        Lacking empathy

        Poor Joseph:

        He only understands his own “standards.” The standards which have been drilled into him by politicians, his parents and probably his particular church. The Amish pay more than their fair share of federal, state and local taxes and ask for very little in return. Anyone who contributes to the tax base used to construct and maintain roads has the “right” to use them. Period!

    5. linda

      seat belts

      yes they need some sort of restraint, especially for children. You see little children in a box at the back and there could be times where they fall out and parents are not even aware of it,

      1. andreas Ost

        restraint, yes

        the restraint needs to be toward those pitiful semi-human, anti-Americans who because their lives & egos are so small and worthless that they have to harass & try to destroy anyone they can. Did our ancestors fight the English & Nazis & Japanese, so their descendants could be micro-managed by tyrants? Where are the Americans & patriots in this instance. We know the phony liberals will never help moral people.
        Seat belts. Can anyone find the statistics of the 1000’s of people that have been killed by them? strangled in wrecks, drown or burned to death because of the “restraints” I once worked with a guy that watched a girl burned to death because she got the door opened, but could not get the “death straps” loose & no one could reach the doors to help – if even they could have freed her. He told us that he had never felt so helpless & how much he hated anyone claiming seat belts saved lives. Because he & others watched that belt kill the girl.

        1. Alex Knisely

          Reply to Andreas Ost -- "Restraint, yes"

          Dear Andreas

          A quick Google identifies this summary — — bottom line, seat belts keep their wearers from being battered against the inside of the passenger compartment and increase the chance that they will, because conscious, able to take part in rescue efforts. All the best —

          1. Alex Knisely


            That they will, because conscious, BE able to… sorry for the grammar lapse.

          2. andreas Ost


            few people trust anything from Snopes (it is a husband & wife pushing their views).
            No one disagrees that some people are saved because of seat belts, but to deny or belittled the lives of those killed by them is cruel.
            Just checked Constitution. can’t find where our founding fathers said the government has any right to even have an opinion on belts.
            The only valid moral stance is that no government at any level has any moral right to demand all this stuff.
            Is bubble wrap or foam next?

            1. Alex Knisely


              …well, you may be right about Snopes in general. However, a sad anecdote about what a friend of a friend once saw is… uhm, an anecdote. And Snopes did, in this instance, try to supply information from a wide backfield.

              So I went looking elsewhere.


              Here’s a gateway link into a 2017 Centers for Disease Control summary of auto-crash death and injury data with relation to seatbelt use. The information presented here suggests that not being belted in at the time of an accident lessens chances of survival. So…

              Thanks, Andreas: I’ll go with Snopes on this one.

            2. Jennifer London

              Seatbelts, Busybodies and Anti-Amish attitudes

              Hi Andrea,
              I agree that seat belts can trap people in cars, it can and does happen and it should be the choice of the occupant of the vehicle as to which chance they’re going to take, not a busybody.

              That being said, I cannot say if the proposal is busybody or a bit of negativity towards the Amish. We recently built a place in western Wisconsin–not Wood Co, further west–and we experienced it from prospective contractors annoyed we were doing ANY work (cabinets) with the AY-mish (a derogatory pronunciation, I can assure you).

              One of the contractors who was not a bigot, who we did work with, alluded to the fact that some locals hate when outsiders (us city folk) use the Amish versus them when building. In fact, we were turned off by most local contractors who assumed we were moneybags by way of being from the city and massaged their prices upward. My gut said the Amish dealt with us fairly, especially when they price off of tried and true charts, not pulling numbers out of the air, but I digress.

              So while I’m not sure of the sentiments in Wood Co, I know where we are it’s an uneasy relationship and in the case of Wood, it may be blame the victim versus getting auto drivers to SLOW DOWN in Amish corridors.

        2. Ken Tibbetts

          Sauce for the goose

          Nowhere in the state of Wisconsin is there a statute which requires the use of seat belts in school buses. Now, how can the county of Wood proffer benevolence on the Amish and ignore English children. Makes little sense to me. Also, I wonder if those “in charge” have given thought to licensing bicycles, scooters, skates and just plain old hikers.

          I just hope I haven’t opened a can of worms.

      2. Kevin

        Buggies are made out of wood and fiberglass. Seat belts won’t do much. In this case it’s better if they get thrown from the buggy. If they are trapped inside by a seat belt, they risk the possibility of ending up under the tires of the vehicle as the buggy splinters and breaks apart. And as far as kids falling out, those kids are old enough to know not to stand up or lean out. Any young kids ride up front in the mother’s lap. Plus Amish kids usually have more smarts than the English kids do because those mother’s are too stupid and lazy.

        1. Alex Knisely

          Reply to Kevin -- buggies made of wood and fiberglass --

          — well, you may be right. I doubt that either of us has reviewed the police reports or the accident statistics, so whatever we can contribute is speculation rather than evidence-based. OK to agree to disagree, I hope.

    6. Liz

      buggies with seat belts

      I believe that new and current vehicle drivers need lessons in sharing the road. I participated in several Wisconsin and Michigan cross state rides. Many drivers are rude and in their rush to get somewhere, they use their horns to make horses and buggies move differently or just for amusement. These drivers have no experience with REAL horse power.

      While pulling a horse trailer through Chicago loop, I had several drivers hang back just to see my horses. This caused them to shy while inside the trailer and throwing the center of weight off while I was in an elevated curve in the Interstate. Vehicle drivers need to be tested for road etiquette or at least include this in their drivers education classes.

    7. Robin wyatt


      Seriously, 95% of buggy accidents have nothing to do with the buggy,buggy drivers ect. And if you have seen one wheather in person or pictures you would know and realize that seat belts nor car seats would have saved anyone or kept them safer. Now the rear view or side mirrors would be a great thing. I do thing the buggies should have their own lane as bicycles and runners do. BUT the problem is people in motorized vehicles. The are in a hurry,talking on the phone,texting,and no patience, road rage, they think the are more important.

    8. Harry Hudak

      Amish Buggies w/seat belts??

      This seems like nothing more than harassment of the Amish, a way to raise money, and a pure violation of the Amish Community’s First Amendment Rights.
      Further, the Amish Communities raise quite a bit of revenue as a by-product of the tourism they attract to local areas. Counties should remember that.

    9. Julia

      How about tractors?

      How many people drive tractors or heavy machinery on the roads. None of those vehicles have license plates, I bet most of them do not have liability insurance, and at least in my area, children without driver’s licenses are sometimes driving the equipment on highways and bi-ways.

      I want people to be safe, but I believe it is up to the Amish to determine what is best for them, and yes seat belt might prevent future deaths and injuries, but car seats? Buggy seats? I wonder if they could construct a windshield? Mirrors certainly would help and cause little disturbance.


    10. Kevin

      For some reason I don’t think the government sees this as an issue of safety, but another way to get money out of them to line they’re pockets with.

      Seat belts in a buggy really won’t make a much of difference when hit by a car traveling 45mph like the article says. A lot of kids drive these buggies and carts around too. If they are required to get a drivers license, the kids won’t be allowed to do this anymore.

      I also think they are using this situation to try and get more government into they’re lives. Since our government is trying to take religion away from the English, they don’t care about the Amish beliefs. It’s just another way big brother is trying to medal in everyone’s lives.

    11. Scott Lehman

      More info

      Nine people killed since 2009 doesn’t seem like a large number . I would like to know how many were killed in auto accidents in the same time period. I would also like to know who if anyone was found at fault in the accidents with buggies. Car drivers are to be in control of their vehicle so rear collusion’s with a buggy is the responsibility of the car driver. This sounds like because autos may be responsible so let’s impose more burden on upon those not causing the problem. This unfortunately is typical of today’s lawmakers. Oh, by the way one death is to many but if the Amish had a license how does that stop someone from hitting them?

    12. Kiki

      Amish buggy safety

      How many if you are first responders? I’m a retired police officer and have seen my share of crash victims. Not something you really want to carry in your memory, especially when children are involved. If the real issue the county has is that they don’t want the Amish around anymore and that sentiment is being hidden behind a vehicle safety claim, then I agree they’re wrong. If the real issue is what God wants then I would suggest that putting oneself or family in danger on purpose is a sin. If the issue is making the buggies themselves safer, I suggest that Amish skills are so highly ranked they should have little difficulty using steel instead of wood as the buggy’s frame. Once the REAL issue is decided, perhaps a solution will be found!

    13. Scott Lehman

      Amish buggy safety

      I respect everyone’s opinion but I believe this issue becomes more complicated the more you legislate. Steel frames on buggies will be of little good when the auto overrides the frame or flips the buggy. You would next require side protection and rollcages. The government always looks at the result (accidents) not the cause (auto speed). People feel entitled to go 60 mph no matter the conditions and frown upon, belittle, or scream at anyone not going fast enough for their liking. The real problem is driver education of automobiles I suspect. I also think another person said it right what about farm tractors, backhoes having plates insurance etc. but that would rile some folks who are not Amish!

    14. Alice Mary

      Complicated issue!

      I doubt seatbelts in buggies would actually HELP keep people in buggy accidents from dying. As stated here (and from being up close with even more “modern” buggies in an Amish buggy shop within the last few years), strapping someone inside a lightweight vehicle made of wood & fiberglass seems foolhardy when considering said vehicle is using the same road (buggy lane or NOT) regularly used by motorized vehicles which weigh a couple of tons and travel (yes, legally) at rates of speed FAR higher than that of a single-horse-pulled buggy.

      Where I live, even school children on school buses do not have seatbelts to use (this may be different in other parts of the country, but not here). There’s been ongoing debate about why this is so, but as of today, my granddaughter rides seatbelt-less in her district school bus. People who use commercial buses (municipal transportation systems that operate as public transportation in cities) don’t have seatbelts to use, either. In my “travels” to and from Amish country (in chartered buses), the driver gives us passengers “the option” of wearing seatbelts or not. It’s not mandatory, as with cars.

      I learned in that fore-mentioned Amish buggy shop that at least in some states, the Amish buy license plates for their buggies–the money goes toward maintenance and upkeep of roads (including manure removal). There will always be those (on either side of the issue) who think they know best, and those who die because of it. I personally hope the English and Amish can compromise regarding EVERYONE’S safety when using public roads.

      Yes, it seems to me that this part of Wisconsin wants to drive the Amish away. They also seem to be quite ignorant of Amish culture in general. Go figure, as they live among them!

      I can’t help but wonder if anyone (any state or federal agency or even auto manufacturers or the insurance industry) has done testing regarding the likely outcomes of accidents involving cars and buggies–you know, like they do with crash test dummies in cars. Just curious.

      That said, I’ll pray for all those who must use public roads ANYWHERE!

      Alice Mary

    15. Kevin

      My dad used to say . . .

      I am 66 years old. When I was a kid and still living at home, I can remember my dad saying, “They will not rest until they can put a meter on our mouths in order to tax the air we breathe.” I have come to the realization that it is the full-time job of our government to figure out more and more ways with which to bilk the working stiff out of his or her rightful wage, in the form of taxes, licenses, permits, fees, and the like. Requiring the Amish to procure a driver’s license and “car” insurance is just another way for them to worm their way into our wallets. These blokes in politics must be running out of ways with which to fund their flimsy programs if they are now going after the Amish. I suppose we should have expected it to come to this. But I for one draw the line here. The Amish are a God-fearing, loving, and community minded sect of our society. If ever there was a group of individuals who commands our admiration, then the Amish are them. If motor vehicle operators cannot slow down to the posted speed limit, or get off their cell phones long enough to navigate a relaxing drive home from work, then who should be punished? The Amish buggy driver who was victim to John Doe’s compromised texting ability at 70 mph? I would support legislation to restrict the use of a cell phone while driving. There are apps that will disable a cell phone keyboard at speeds exceeding 12 mph. That should be mandatory. Get these people to obey the cell phone laws first and foremost. And leave the Amish alone. They are a victim of our modern society. They are not a religious group, per se. But rather a peace loving faction who, like ourselves so many years ago, just love this country and living free.

    16. Carol A Hill

      lighting on buggies

      I am a new resident of St Lawrence County in NY. in a county of some 110,000 people, I believe the Amish population is somewhere north of 7,000. That is a LOT of buggies on the roads. Most of the communities are very conservative Swartzentruber Amish. They do not use the orange slow moving vehicle triangle on the buggies, but will use reflective tape. They use a small kerosene lamp on driver side. I drive very carefully, watching speeds and giving room to the buggies (horse person too, so I am aware of a horse’s unpredictable nature). Not all residents are as patient, but even the careful, attentive drivers get caught by surprise.

      The reflective tape is applied liberally on back and sides of some buggies, not so much on others. And some have none. It does help, but on a cloudy day at dusk? They can be very difficult to see. I wish they would use actual lights, for their own safety. Reflectors on horse harnesses, buggy wheels…. anywhere that the movement would catch your eye would be an improvement.

    17. Terry from Wisc

      That article was in our local paper. The location they are talking about is about 75 miles from us. It will certainly be up for debate!

      Merry Christmas Erik and to all the readers!
      Safe in Christ,

    18. Walter Boomsma

      It is at least interesting how this becomes a multi-issue debate… Are seat belts safer? It this government over-reach? I confess the first thing I thought of was “Why single out the Amish?” Others have mentioned tractors… I immediately thought of non-Amish horseback riders–should they be licensed and have required safety equipment? Put some reflective tape on your horse’s but, please.

      Personally, I think we could be a bit more tolerant here. The Amish are, unfortunately, an easy target for those who feel responsible for managing other people’s lives. How ironic is it that they refuse to become dependent on our government… but our government wants to “take care” of them by imposing restrictions? Where is the logic in this? I have logged a lot of miles in areas where buggies are prolific. I’ve never had one cross the centerline because the driver was texting. As others have pointed out, let’s be honest about what the REAL problem is here and address that.

      Politicians like easy targets and “feel good” legislation–that’s how they win votes. Not only do the Amish not need our help, they’ve consistently demonstrated a profound ability to take care of themselves. Why not let them?

    19. Safety Features on Buggies

      They always try to sell their ‘revenue generating laws’ as being about safety. It has nothing to do with any concern over a person’s ‘safety’. Look at the accidents. Would any of the new money generating laws have prevented even one? It’s only about control, less freedom, and especially the money.

    20. James Gawne


      Measure defeated. Only yea vote was the supervisor that wrote the proposed Ordinance. It was a poorly written and unrealistic. They will revisit the tooic of lights and reflective tape but the requirement that all drivers have a driver license was over the top. SeT belts and car seats in a vehicle that disintegrates when hit by a car or truck just doesn’t seem to make sense.

      1. Ordinance fails; link to article

        Just to add a link to James’ update, here’s a link to a story (and excerpt) on the proposed ordinance that failed to pass today. Chairman Lance Plimil (Pliml?), who was noted to be skeptical of the measure in the original article, basically said that the proposed requirements went too far:

        WISCONSIN RAPIDS, WI (WSAU-WAOW) — The Wood County board of supervisors have chopped an ordinance that would have required animal-drawn vehicles to be treated much like motor vehicles after no one seconded a motion for a vote.

        Newsline 9 reports that the issue was motioned to a vote, however, no second was offered. Wood County board chairman Lance Plimil said he thinks the issue just went too far. “When this was first introduced, we were looking at the ability to have buggies lit at night, which protected both the Amish and non-Amish communities who use those highways. Somewhere along the way a whole bunch of rules and regulations got added to the ordinance that didn’t do a whole lot to protect the public, but affected the buggy occupant,” said Plimil.

    21. AJ

      No. I do not think so. The reason for this is because Amish buggies aren’t speeding down the road and doing 70 mph in a 30 mph lane. The main purpose of the seat belt in cars is to protect drivers from a head on collision.

      When it comes to safety and sharing the road, motor vehicle operators are the ones with the privilege. A buggy is not a motor vehicle. It is not a machine. It can’t drive down the road at 100 mph. A buggy with a seat belt is about as useful as a bicycle with a seat belt. Maybe some other kind of safety technology, such as helmets or yet to be designed buggy safety features, but a seat belt for a slow moving vehicle doesn’t make since.

      Also, requiring a license also doesn’t make any sense. Again, a buggy is not a motor vehicle. It is not a machine and is slow moving. To require a license for a buggy operator, you might as well require a license to walk or ride a bicycle.

      1. Ken Tibbetts



        I agree…100%

      2. Jb


        Why is this such a hot topic? Why are non amish people so gung ho about preserving freedoms for amish people but won’t do the same when “Englishers” are hit with new regulations? Very strange. As a non amish person am I allowed to drive a buggy with a horse down the street?

        1. Alex Knisely

          "Why is this such a hot topic"?

          You ask three questions.

          Hot topic — Injustice to the Amish is canary-in-the-coalmine stuff. They are at the margins of our society. They are the first targets of busybodies and meddlers. If those at the margins suffer now, those closer to the center will suffer later. If we can keep Amish liberties intact, we closer to the center should be OK.

          Why [won’t] non-Amish people preserve “Englishers”‘ freedoms? I don’t recognize the situation that you postulate. The ACLU, a non-Amish organization, is all about preserving freedoms for us all.

          As a non-Amish person, you assuredly are allowed to drive a buggy with a horse down the street. Good luck. For your first try, let me suggest a plowhorse at the end of a long day of work. A two-year-old coltwould probably have you in the next township before you knew what was going on.

    22. To answer the question "Why?"

      I think you probably are allowed to drive a buggy with a horse down the street… well, not on an interstate.

      Personally, I object to the government’s attempt to regulate everything… but this was a bit different because it seemed to be a clear attempt to single out a very specific group with legislation that simply didn’t make any sense. I can understand that I’m forced to wear a helmet when I go horseback riding at a stable–it’s usually an insurance regulation–because the insurance company knows that anyone who gets injured is going to find someone to blame, someone to sue and someone to pay.

      Amish society is considerably different–so what was to gain, really? Where this was a local issue, why didn’t these “well intended” politicians invite some of the Amish Leaders for discussion of some of the concerns…? This seemed to be a fine example of over-reach and now the board chair is actually admitting it.

    23. jb

      two responses!

      Well I didn’t realize I was dealing with the ACLU. I still do believe some people will consider Amish freedoms and not those of others according to these posts, like the way people defend seatbelts in cars but not in buggies. If I choose to ride a horse and buggy I think I can choose a proper horse, but I wanted to know the legality. I am actually quite surprised “English” people in Amish areas haven’t taken horses and buggies to the streets. I wonder about Amish representation in government and I am surprised no Amish leaders were invited to discuss the issue but it seems it worked out OK! Thanks for your responses, which were not even too impolite.

    24. Jon

      Buggy Rules

      Why the double standard? Why must I follow the federal, State and local laws and the Amish are exempt? Rules of the road should apply uniformly to everyone. By law I must insure my vehicles on public roads. I must have all required lights and safety devises installed and functional. I must restrain my children. I must be licensed and at least 16 years of age to operate a vehicle on a public road. I also pay taxes on my gasoline to build and maintain those roads.
      I have always felt that the Anabaptists are not true Americans or patriots. They love living in our great nation that offers them wonderful freedoms and protection but yet they want no part in defending it, governing it or participating in U.S. society. They are not on the team. They simply live under our umbrella and feel entitled not to be asked to participate. How convenient! At 58 and a veteran of 32 years of military service I am sad to say I have never seen an American flag flown on an Amish house or a celebration of any U.S. holidays. I do share your Christian faith but differ on how we honor and keep our country.

      1. Alex Knisely

        "Not true Americans or patriots"

        Your ideas of what it is to be a TRUE American are not the yardstick by which all Americans’ behavior must be measured. They are based in part on mis-information.

        Read closely — four words — The Amish pay taxes.

        Again for you: The Amish pay taxes.

        They participate in US society financially. And they participate in US society, perhaps more valuably, by standing outside it, as witnesses who offer silent reproof to what some aspects of US society have become. We are lucky to have the Amish, among others such as Jehovah’s witnesses, to remind us that flag-idolatry is wicked folly.

        1. Jon

          Many thousands of illegal immigrants pay U.S. taxes. Thousands of foreigners on work visas pay U.S. taxes as well. Payment of taxes does not reflect patriotism, allegiance or love of country in any way. We all pay taxes because the law says we must or face penalties. Laws should apply uniformly to all. Once we start exempting people and creating double standards it breeds resentment and discontent.
          I have come very close to colliding with black, unlighted buggies on dark nights several times. That is irresponsible, inconsiderate and a total disregard for others safety, regardless of your beliefs. I would never jeopardize another person that way. I am also now a farmer. I am legally required to have flashers, SMV signs, and markers on all my tractors and implements/wagons for safety or face a fine. Playing the “religion card” is unacceptable when it comes to public safety or liability. Some of our local Amish are now equipping their buggies with bright LED lights, for which I am thankful. It demonstrates responsible behavior for themselves and others, even on little used township roads.

          By the way: I do not practice flag idolatry. I am first a Christian. But I am also a proud American who loves his country.

          1. Alex Knisely

            You and Procrustes would have been grand friends

            Remember Procrustes and his bed? One size fit all. If a guest was shorter than the bed, the guest was stretched. If taller than the bed was wrong, feet and legs were cut away.

            One size fits all is easy to put onto paper; but then again, paper is patient, paper will put up with anything. People are different. Laws and the administration of justice take that fact into account.

            Nativism is a funny thing. I expect, playing the odds, that you are an American not by choice but by happenstance. If you had been born a few miles to the north, you would brandish the maple leaf and not the stars and stripes. You might as well be proud of your red hair, or your large feet. Or are you proud of the idea that has given us all “America”? You’re not proud of an important part of it — religious freedom.

            Oh, well. Before I go — those non-citizens paying taxes here, however they got here: They CHOSE to join America, for whatever reasons. They have more right to be proud of being part of America than do you or I, who just happened to be plopped out here..

            1. Jon

              Yes, I was born here in this great land but I remain an American by choice. In my opinion it is the best nation on earth; and I have visited more than half the others.

              I have witnessed religious persecution many times in many countries. I have served in several places where my religion was forbidden. I fought in three conflicts. A large part of why I pledged my life in this nations defense is because of our 1st amendment religious rights. I was prepared to die for that and also for your right to practice whatever beliefs you have. So don’t you dare suggest that I am not proud of our religious freedoms.

              1. Alex Knisely

                Proud of our religious freedoms?

                Cue screaming eagles **yawn**. Love our country? Most people get over that when they realize that it doesn’t love us back.

                In the abstract, you’re proud of our religious freedoms. Yeah yeah. When they mean no buggy lights, you say — the Amish are playing the religion card. They’re not true Americans. They’re “not on the team”. You’re all for religious freedoms as long as they’re freedom for your religion. Sheesh.

                What a writhing wormpile of self-contradiction your statements are.

                Here’s a tip for being a true American: Leave your neighbor alone. A couple of additional tips: If you know you live in a region with horse-and-buggy traffic… drive slowly and carefully. Anything else? Uh, yeah, maybe — Don’t drink milk that has gone thick. Basic life-coach hints. No, don’t thank me, happy to help.

                And, with all that pride you boast, sign your full, true name to your posts on this website and elsewhere, rather than skulking behind “Jon”. What are you afraid of?

                Good luck. Signing off on this one. MAGA ! ! !

                1. Jon

                  People that have no love for this country are free to depart from it.
                  If you feel that another nation would better accommodate and love you more, than you should not waste your time here.

                  Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in regards to an Amish law suit: ”To maintain an organized society that guarantees religious freedom to a great variety of faiths requires that some religious practices yield to the common good.” I am a Christian and I agree with the Chief Justice.
                  Last year, 3 miles from my farm, an Amish man (father of 9) was killed in his buggy. The boy who hit him will live with that awful memory for life.
                  Those children have no Father; a wife, no husband. How could we have avoided this tragedy?

                  I am commanded to love my neighbor. Part of that neighborly love is acting safely on public roads. Putting lights on a buggy is asking very little.

                  Freedom of speech is another great thing about our nation. These are my opinions. They are not meant to be offensive, unlike your condescending attacks. Alex, I am not skulking or afraid of anything. I’d be happy to debate in a public forum.

                  1. Alex Knisely

                    The man without a surname

                    Depart? And leave this country to … to the likes of you? I think it’s still worth salvaging, thank-you-very-much.

                    “How could we have avoided this tragedy?” The boy whom you defend and support could have been a careful driver.

                    Watch out for that thick milk. It’ll getcha. And… grow a surname, skulker.

                    1. Jon

                      To “salvage” it you must be part of it. Are you involved in local politics? Do you serve on any committees? Are you active in supporting your local community? Do you vote? Do you evangelize? I don’t see the Amish represented anywhere around here. They are strangers to us unless we patronize their businesses.

                      Perhaps the Amish man, who you defend and support could have made himself more visible. You are much to quick to lay blame without knowing the facts. You presumptuously blame the boy. The rest of the population should not be forever required to tip toe around the Amish because they are are too stubborn to safely conduct themselves on public roads. They put us all at risk.

                      Can we please exchange views with out the adolescent name calling?

                      1. Alex Knisely

                        Still no surname -- who are you?

                        The Amish are, according to their beliefs — remember all your prattle about religious freedom? — required not to be conformed to this world. Full stop.

                        Romans 12:2. They interpret it differently from you and me. You would force them to interpret that verse YOUR way. No religious freedom for them! Instead, they should put out flags.

                        Your “patriotism” is forced conformity, oppression, submission. MAKE THEM BE LIKE US.

                        MAGA, baby. This IS a public forum. Got a surname yet?

    25. Jon

      You disrespect my opinions by relegating them to prattle.
      I respect your opinions without belittling them.
      Based upon your comments we should place our recently arrived Anabaptist neighbors on a pedestal. According to you, they hold the moral high ground. Their beliefs trump all our established common laws: even if it puts the public safety in jeopardy. You are much like the muslims. You think your dogma deserves special status and recognition, like a protected species, similar to the LGBT crowd. You demand special rights and exemptions from the laws that all others have to abide by. Perhaps you can establish your own sovereign nation of Anabaptist’s some day and live happily ever after.

      Why are you so obsessed with my surname?

      1. Alex Knisely

        All grist for hate's mill

        Anabaptists, Muslims, LGBT people. All to be crushed into conformity with how you choose to live.

        America is about no one receiving specially privileged status. Not even white middle-aged men get to have it all their own way, “Jon”. If that is your real name.

        No wonder you are afraid to sign your surname to your posts. You know what dishonor they would bring upon someone not hiding behind anonymity. Would you be ready to tell your neighbors, face to face, how you resent and fear them? Not a chance.

    26. Liz

      Not our problem

      The problem resides with the auto drivers NOT the Plain folk. If there is a buggy auto accident, it is the vehicle driver not the buggy driver. enough said.

    27. Roger

      The sensible regulation is clearly to limit all county roads to a 25 mph maximum, and certainly at night. From a safety perspective, this would benefit all drivers, not just Amish ones.

      1. Well, I don’t know Roger. 25 mph is pretty slow. It might be warranted on some roads (I’ve been on curvy or unimproved roads where 25 really was a reasonable speed) but would be pretty extreme for all county roads. I also don’t know that you’d be able to reasonably enforce that and I doubt people would happily accept cutting their travel speed nearly in half.