Surprise, No Surprise: Some Amish Ignoring Ohio Buggy Light Law

The new Ohio law requiring flashing yellow lights on horse-drawn vehicles came into effect in September. And as predicted here months (and years) back, some Amish in the state are not complying. From Fox 8:

ASHLAND, Ohio (WJW) – A new law that makes flashing yellow lights mandatory on Amish buggies, and other horse-drawn vehicles across the state, is now being enforced by a number of police agencies in Northeast Ohio.

The new law is not popular among the Amish, and some community leaders are openly scoffing at the new flashing light requirement.

On Monday morning, there were some unhappy members of the Amish community as deputies and troopers began writing citations in Amish communities in northern Ashland County.

“It’s our job to enforce the law and we’re asking for voluntary compliance and if they don’t, they could face citations and fines,” said Lt. Don Sims with the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office.

Dash camera video obtained by FOX 8 shows two Amish men who were pulled over outside Ashland by a deputy for violating the new law.

When asked if they were aware of the flashing light requirement, one of the men told the deputy, “We heard about it. I would put it on but my bishop is not allowing me.”

This area of northern Ashland County is home to a sizable Swartzentruber Amish community which also lies in next-door Medina County. These are the Amish which were obviously going to have an issue with this law.

ohio swartzentruber amish medina county

There was apparently a grace period following the law’s implementation, but now it’s enforcement time.

Law enforcement is “hoping with some further education and outreach and enforcement” they can compel the most conservative Amish to comply (this is called “chang[ing] Amish hearts and minds” in the article). I’ll just say good luck with that.

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    38 Comments

    1. Joe Donnermeyer

      Not surprised!

      Your title “Surprise” is the same as my title “Not surprised.” Given the large number of conservative Amish groups throughout Ohio, incidents like what is described in your story will continue. The real surprise may be how it plays out — all the way to the State Supreme Court or will workarounds and compromises be found?

      1. Yes no surprise at all. The lawmakers were evidently not serious about how the plainest Amish would react (Darrell Kick in June apparently was mainly interested in providing a lot of fluffy language about “love”* but I saw nothing practical on Swartzentruber Amish, which was predictably going to be the friction point)…so their law will create an inevitable mess for one or more of the courts, law enforcement and those Amish themselves.

        *Correction: it was Representative Wiggam who provided the love explanation.

        1. Roger

          That quote from Kick was some of the most childish commentary I’ve ever seen from any legislator on any level. It was so nonsensical that it calls into question whether there was a rational basis for the law: “love” is an emotional reason, not a rational one.

          1. You kinda captured my thoughts on this one.

            1. Roger

              I also wonder what happened since this 2017 article which documented how Swartzentrubers in the Ashland County area were working with local law enforcement to adopt new safety measures: https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/news/local/2017/04/30/swartzentruber-amish-work-to-give/10745223007/

              Interesting also that the police officer quoted seems reasonable and understanding of the importance of compromise (“It’s easy for us to say put lights on their buggies, but it’s not their way.”) The article also implies that most crashes are due to the inattention of car drivers during daytime hours, which lights are not going to address.

    2. Maureen NY

      Amish Ignoring the Light Law

      Erik,

      This defiance is troubling altogether. So many times on the dark hilly roads of upstate New York, driving in all kinds of weather slowly, without reflecters and lights I have come very close behind a buggy before I can see it clearly. In my opinion this puts me [and other cautious/slow drivers] in a hazardous position. Add ice, snow, and rain. Not a good mix for anyone driving in a black colored buggy without lights, reflectors, orange triangle, or a solar type lite. Driving on our county roads at night, and yes they do drive in the dark where the speed limit is 55mp and if your lucky, all the driver sees is movement of a bobbing head of a standardbred trotting, pulling a black buggy in the dark of night in all kinds of unsafe weather conditions. Amish need to follow the law, if not to protect themselves, but for the law-abiding motorists who do not want to hit them or their horse! It simply astonishes me how a bishop or a district can think this elementary safety rule is an English worldly thing. I hope ticketing will make them adhere to the Light Law.

      That said, really enjoy your videos; my favorite is the one you did on “laundry”! Keep well, and
      thank you.

      1. Belated thanks Maureen; and I do understand why people want Amish buggies to be visible! I’ve been fortunate to never have had a close call. But I know a lot have had them. I think the best way to approach this is to work with the plainest churches to find a solution they will actually adhere to. Unless the goal is to drive them out of the state. But there are some alternatives which I covered in previous posts which the plainest Amish in some places have adopted.

        1. Maureen

          Amish ignoring the Light Law

          Erick, well said.

          The plainer Amish will make this a very long, involved battle indeed. The plain Amish are steadfast in their beliefs. I only wish I could find some understanding in their defiance. I explain that when I’m in my mini-van and I see a Mack truck, I want to be as protected as possible. And don’t they want to be as protected as possible in their horse driven buggy against my slow driving mini van, or someone’s suburban, or a Mack truck? I argue, in addition to a buggy that offers zero protection to its occupants, it is also pulled by a horse that for no reason at all can become frightened, or high spirited, and bolt. [And this happens way more than is reported]. A simple deflector is eschewed? A small but effective “English” safety suggestion, and one welcomed by a mini-van driver and many other drivers as well. The orange triangle signals me to slow down in many cases at night to 5mph. so as not to spook the horse and respect the Amish buggy driver. Horse-buggy driver to horse-buggy driver I personally welcomed the Mennonite orange triangle. Will some one please explain to me why anyone, Amish not withstanding, would have an issue with a reflector on a bike, scooter, motor bike, and horse-and-buggy? If not for themselves, but for all the other safe motorists? So a light law? Not any time soon.

    3. Anthony Shope

      Lock them up

      I live in an Amish community (Buchanan County Iowa) they can be stubborn and often are. But if you appeal to their love for family they’ll likely comply.

      If not seize the buggy until the light is installed. One the 3rd offense (their going to test you) seize it and sell the buggy.

      Any further offenses lock the driver up and sell the buggy.

      I was a driver for 4 years and a police officer for approximately 24 years.

      They’ll comply.

      1. Amish and buggy lights

        If the Amish were that concerned with their own families’ safety, they would have complied long ago. As for the Amish disobeying the law, they must have forgotten this:
        Romans 13:1
        “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”. It would appear that God is telling people to follow not only His laws but those of earthly leaders.

      2. Roger

        Will you apply those consequences to all vehicle infractions, including speeding, broken tail lights, running red lights, etc., or just those involving this one solitary law?

    4. Jerry

      Question

      How do the Swartzentruber Amish compare the the PA Nebraska orders? Many of our Nebraska orders have blue doors on their homes, drive brown open front buggies with white tops.

      1. The Nebraska group does use the SMV triangle at least (and two lanterns) and within the group there has been some division which has led to more progressive churches arising under the “Nebraska” label. However none of them to my knowledge have permitted any kind of electric light on buggies. Though some of them do allow flip-phones.

    5. New law buggy flashing lights required

      Maybe battery operated flashing lights may make the Amish feel more comfortable with new law. However the bishop is responsible for his decision guiding the Amish members so if he against it not the members fault being that be a disobedience. The bishop should care for the lives of his followers that safety comes first to save lifes. Too many buggy accidents not to be concerned. Hopefully the bishop will have a change in heart that theirs nothing wrong in protection shared on the roads.

    6. Ignoring ohio buggy light law

      I have to agree with a comment that stated if they don’t follow the law for safety then they need to be banned of traveling in buggy and second offense to impound the buggy. I do understand it’s the bishop making the decision and the members need to band together hold a meeting to show the bishop the importance of buggy lights. A list of how many horrible accidents occurred and lost of precious life’s. Doesn’t take away their beliefs just about protection in this advanced world.

    7. David Stear

      Buggy lights

      Unfortunately or reluctantly one must come down on the side of the law in this situation. I assume there has been public education about this regulation including meetings with the Amish bishops on how this should be followed for safety’s sake. That said, I think I can see the “Amish point of view” in that it seems to be an invasion of privacy. I think if I were Amish and drove a horse and buggy I would resent the idea of a flashing light acting almost like electronic arrows pointing toward the buggy–there might as well be a flashing neon sign saying “Eat At Joe’s” and I know that the Amish value their privacy which is partly why they try to locate in out of the way places away from the “mainstream”.

      1. Amish and buggy lights

        When wearing seatbelts became the law, did you consider that an invasion of privacy? When smoking in restaurants, offices, etc. became unlawful, did you consider that an invasion of privacy? Unmarked horses and buggies on a public road are risky for everyone, including the horse. In my opinion, an Amish bishop willing to risk the lives of his people and those of the “Englishers”, by refusing to ensure that Amish horses and buggies are road-safe, is being prideful and going against God’s wishes.

        1. David Stear

          In reply to Janice Reamer

          I was merely expressing empathy for the Amish having to go to these extraordinary measures when basically all they want is to be left alone to practice their religion and way of life as they see fit which is their Constitutional right. Your comparison to anti-smoking and seat belt laws are a poor analogy and by the way, I never touched cigarettes or used tobacco in any form in my entire life of 68 years. I do resent the need to use seat belts but recognize it as a necessary evil. Your remarks are needlessly argumentative and petulant. I recognize the seemingly unfortunate need for better identification of buggies but by the same token realize that it is probably an imposition upon the Amish to have to do this and infer that they, or at least their bishops, probably generally think so too.

    8. Barney Fife

      I have a different take on this situation. They should get rid of the Barney Fife writing tickets, and just let everyone get on down the road.

      1. Clint

        If you were the driver

        If you were the driver of the car who hit and killed a family because you couldn’t see the buggy because they chose to ignore the flashing light law, how would you feel?

        1. Roger

          What I’d think is that the law shouldn’t have permitted me to drive at a speed that allowed me to kill persons lawfully using the roadway. A fast-moving car is a deadly weapon, but a bicycle, buggy or scooter is not. Speed limits should be set at a level which will minimize deaths and serious injuries. If drivers will not obey them, enforce the law strictly and require the installation of speed governors and/or collision detectors. This will have the added benefit of preventing many “English” deaths too.

          1. Amish and buggy lights

            Are you saying that the English should obey laws, but that Amish shouldn’t have to? Putting lights or an orange triangle on one’s buggy is for everyone’s safety. Why is it so difficult for you and the Amish to understand that? Driving the speed limit at night does not guarantee that one will not crash into an Amish buggy going down a hill in the dark. If that buggy does not have some sort of safety light on it, it isn’t the driver in the vehicle who should be blamed for crashing into the buggy! The law is the law for everyone. You break it, you pay for it!

            1. Roger

              It’s funny, where I live there is no Amish population but I hear petulant comments just like yours directed in response to measures to protect bicyclists. “So you think that cyclists shouldn’t have to follow the same rules that drivers do?” Etc. Motorists are so incredibly entitled that they perceive modest restrictions on their driving habits as a personal attack or even an affront to the rule of law, while demonstrating contempt for anyone who chooses alternative modes of transport.

              Your own comment reveals that you do not consider safety the primary objective here but rather want to avoid personal accountability for your actions without having to alter your behavior (“it isn’t the driver in the vehicle who should be blamed”). I’d respectfully ask that you have a little more respect for the power of a fast and heavy motor vehicle to cause deadly harm and a little more compassion for other human beings — not “Amish” or “cyclists” — who like you are just trying to go about their day using different means.

    9. Roger

      As you said, one could see this coming from years away. Either it’s going to be mostly ignored by the authorities, to remain as a constant source of friction and irritation, or it will be Kentucky in 2012 all over again, but completely without excuse this time since the lawmakers should have known better and apparently ignored the successful examples from other states.

      1. Anthony Shope

        What happened in KY

        Rodger what happened in 2012 in Kentucky and why?

    10. Sister Su

      Don’t Hold Your Breath

      When I heard about this new law, I knew it was not going to work for many Amish communities in Ohio. The more progressive communities may allow it, but giving one example I’m familiar with, the Amish in Hardin County will not allow it. They won’t even put a neon orange slow moving vehicle triangle on their buggys, because it’s such an unnatural (& to them ungodly) color– they would rather go to jail.

      They say they are not the ones who have changed, they are just doing the same thing they have done for several hundred years now. So why should they be expected to go against their conscience? I’m not trying to convince any of you one way or the other. I’m just saying that when I drive in those Amish areas of Hardin County, where my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins live, I just go extra slow. It’s worth avoiding an accident.

    11. J.O.B.

      I’m still waiting for law enforcement/gov’t officials to stop all the cars from speeding, drivers driving drunk, running stop signs, playing on their cell phone while behind the wheel, and so on.

      Lower the speed limit since the roads are to be shared by all.

      Point is, if safety is the motivation for this, then target the cars.

      Over 46,000 people are killed each year in ‘car’ accidents.

      Over 4 million injured each year in ‘car’ accidents.

      Complain all you want about some Amish ignoring buggy light law……over 4 million people are hurt and killed by cars.

      Priorities people.

      1. David Stear

        I agree with JOB

        I couldn’t have said it better myself–it’s always a guessing game anymore when one goes driving in their car as to what idiotic thing another driver will do or who will try to run a stop sign with not even a pretense of stopping. I can only imagine what certain drivers will thoughtlessly do when they encounter a horse and buggy. Many is the time I’ve seen drivers talking on a cell phone while driving and that is against the law here in California. If people are so stupid as to throw litter out the car window while driving, how much more stupid would be their reaction to a horse and buggy? I agree, drivers of cars do the damage yet it is the Amish who must have the flashing lights on their buggies.

    12. Lilac

      Money grab

      It sounds to me like this is purely a money grab. Obviously the Amish aren’t going to go very far very fast, and they stay in a relatively small area, so it’s easier to hang around the Amish back roads and ticket them for living their beliefs than to stick to the highways and ticket motorists that might just pull a gun on the officer or run and create a bigger hazard with a car chase. Both the government officials and law enforcement knew that this law will violate the beliefs of these people, but they chose to go ahead with their lawmaking. They treat anyone who doesn’t agree with them like children who are incapable of taking care of themselves.

      1. Ken Taylor

        Ignorant comment

        Very ignorant comment that made 0 sense
        I really think God is telling the Amish that ohio is not the place for
        Them, and maybe they should move back to PA and Wisconsin
        They really not wanted here by the majority of the people anyway,

    13. Lance

      God's Providence

      So far, most everyone commenting is presenting a “English” viewpoint. As a Amish seeker who lived conservative Amish for about 2.5 years, I’d like to give my view on this.

      The very first ride I ever took in an Amish buggy, we were passed by a 4×4 pickup with VERY LOUD tires, scared me half out of my wits! The Amish man said: Oh! Sorry, I don’t even pay attention to that anymore! Soon, after a few dozen miles driving myself in my own buggy, I forgot about cars too. That I did not have flashing lights or SMV sign on my buggy really never worried me at all. You can’t worry about what you cannot do anything about, as you go about your day living life.

      And that is part of my point, as Amish we can’t do anything about the vehicles on the road. We live with them, they live with us too. As a people of faith, we trust that God’s Providence will protect us until our time comes to meet our Lord. We trust that God Providence is protecting the vehicle drivers too. We do not want to be hit in our buggies anymore than drivers want to hit us, but accidents do happen, both to buggies with and without flashing lights and SMV signs.

      It’s simple, we live with the risk of being hit every time we drive down the road. As the one commenter said, cars have lots of accidents without any buggies involved at all, yet most all people routinely drive them without concern. We trust that God is in control.

      1. Ken Taylor

        Safety has no boundaries

        The intentions of the flashing lights are to keep families and children safe, anyone who doesn’t understand or want that has and is the problem, also none of us English want to relive nightmares after an accident killing innocent people and children when it could have been prevented by a simple flashing light to make the difference, call it what you want but it is plain ignorance to oppose anything that helps to keep families safe.

        1. Lance

          Some trust in chariots, some in horses ….

          The Amish trust their God is protecting them and the vehicle drivers approaching from behind and in front too.

          Lights do not automatically mean a car driver will be able to avoid a buggy! Amish get run over in the plainest buggies and in the most well lit buggies. My Amish friends, who all drive buggies without SMV signs and lights, say that daytime, when lights do not have a major effect is when most buggy accidents happen.

          For over 2.5 years, I drove buggies around the area of the Amish community I was part of. No fast vehicle driver ever went into the ditch to avoid me, no one ever laid on their horn, no one ever ran into my buggy. A few buggies were damaged in accidents they suffer but no one died. One man has a enduring limp from a broken hip suffered in a vehicle-buggy crash but he is glad to still be holding his grandchildren.

          I learned to stop worrying about cars going faster and the threat that posed to my life. You cannot live with fear like that. It is better to trust God, drive on the right side of the road, know your horse because it’s not a robot so as to avoid accidents yourself when possible. But live with God, having faith that He is with you today, trust in His saving work on the cross and that it is why you can rest easy that your future is in heaven, even if you died today on the road because someone didn’t see you in time.

          Trust God, not man, nor man’s ideas about safety.

    14. Ken Taylor

      Time for the Amish to relocate out of Ohio

      Everywhere I go, everyone I talk to is saying the same thing, we are sick of the Amish invasions in Ohio
      99 percent of people want them gone from our state of Ohio, I live in what use to be a nice little town of loudonville, then came the shrock led invasion and now our whole town is talking about what has become of our once nice little family oriented town, we are not happy with the affect and damage they have done, we pray that God will guide them to leave, if they are Godly people that will be what they do .

      1. Anthony Shope

        We are sick of the Amish invasions in Ohio

        I can find no evidence of damage caused by the Amish in Loudenville or elsewhere in Ohio.

        Would you please tell us what those damages are?

        You sound like a bigot whose prejudices are showing.

        All I can find is positive advertisement for the Amish in Ohio.

      2. David Stear

        Reply to Ken Taylor

        Despite your caustic comment about how the Amish are “invading” Ohio, I daresay Ohio could do much, much worse than the Amish as far as those who come to reside there are concerned. The Amish are a hardworking, productive, clean people who commit very little crime, in short, an attribute to what some joke as being a “flyover” state. They do not litter or create graffiti or try to draw attention to themselves unlike some segments of the American population. I suggest you and those whom you’ve supposedly polled count your blessings. Your comment sounds like sour grapes to me.

    15. Joe Donnermeyer

      Fiction or reality?

      Interesting reading all, from the blatantly wrong-headed to the more reflective comments. The reality is that the Amish presence in Ohio began in 1808, soon after statehood, and that there are now nearly 70 settlemens to be found in the Buckeye state. The first Amish community in Knox County (near Martinsburg in 1838) lasted less than 15 years. There was one other failure in Knox County, near Mt. Vernon, which was founded in 1986, but was extinct by 1996. However, there are 7 settlements located wholly or in part in Knox County. Holmes County plays host to the second largest community which also spills over into four other county, and plays to parts of five other communities. Ashland includes all or parts of three Amish communities. Although no Amish community is Holmes County has ever become extinct, there is one in Ashland County (Jeromesville, 1987-1999). The concentration of Amish settlements, both large and small, is likely the most of any three county area in North America, except for the Ashtabula County (OH), Crawford County (PA) and Mercer County (PA) area.

    16. Joe Donnermeyer

      revised

      Greetings — I am using a keyboard that is new. I see my mistakes. Here is a corrected version of the comments, with some additional commentary.

      Interesting reading all, from the blatantly wrong-headed to the more reflective comments. The reality is that the Amish presence in Ohio began in 1808, soon after statehood, and that there are now nearly 70 settlemens to be found in the Buckeye state. Only the Amish presence in Pennsylvania predates the Amish in Ohio. Wisconsin did not see its first Amish settlement until 1909. The first Amish community in Knox County (near Martinsburg, founded in 1838) lasted less than 15 years. There is one other failure in Knox County, near Mt. Vernon, which was founded in 1986, but was extinct by 1996. However, there are 7 settlements located wholly or in part in Knox County today. Holmes County plays host to the second largest community which also spills over into four other counties (Waynes, Tuscarawas, Cochoston, and Stark), and plays hosts to parts of four other communities. Ashland includes all or parts of three Amish communities. Although no Amish community is Holmes County has ever become extinct, there was one in Ashland County (Jeromesville, 1987-1999). The concentration of Amish settlements, both large and small, is likely the most of any three county area in North America, except possibly for the Ashtabula County (OH), Crawford County (PA) and Mercer County (PA) area. If you want more factual information rather than horse-hockey like rhetoric, go the website for the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College. It has a complete list of settlements in existence today. See https://www.etown.edu/centers/young-center/.