New Legislation proposed for Amish buggy safety | News, Sports, Jobs

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Rep. Carrie Woerner, D-Saratoga Springs, is pictured speaking at a recent news conference.

A series of accidents involving Amish strollers has prompted a new bill that would require strollers to have additional safety features.

The bill (A.8419) is sponsored by Rep. Carrie Woerner, D-Saratoga Springs, and could be taken up in the next state legislative session. Woerner wants strollers to have headlights, a taillight and more reflective materials so they can ride at night.

She cites statistics showing an increase in the state's Amish population from 12,000 in 2010 to 23,000 in 2023, and this increase in population has been accompanied by an increase in accidents between Amish motor vehicles and buggies. Woerner listed several such accidents in his district, although they are not uncommon in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties either.

Last June, two accidents involving Amish vehicles and buggies occurred in the same town of Sherman Road. One of these resulted in serious injuries requiring the use of a medical helicopter, while the second accident also resulted in injuries. An October 2022 crash between an Amish buggy and a Chautauqua County sheriff's patrol vehicle resulted in the hospitalization of five Amish, although all five were later released to recover at home. Deputies reported that the Amish buggy met all New York State requirements for a slow-moving animal-drawn vehicle.

The buggy displayed a slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear and two lit lanterns with a red lens at least 4 inches in diameter near the edge of the buggy and at least 72 inches of high-quality white reflective tape.

“Almost all of these accidents occurred at night or early in the morning or in other poor visibility conditions,” Woerner wrote in his legislative justification. “There are no statewide requirements for lighting on horse-drawn vehicles. This bill would require headlights, a taillight, and reflective striping on any buggy driven from a half-hour after sunset to a half-hour before sunrise. Although some Amish object to lighting their strollers, they could avoid this requirement by limiting their driving to daylight hours.

Ohio began requiring Amish buggies and other animal-drawn vehicles to be equipped with a yellow flashing light when driving on public roads in 2022. This bill passed after the study on The Ohio Department of Transportation's 2019 statewide Amish Travel survey found that there were 723 buggy accidents between 2009 and 2019. About 350 accidents resulted in injuries, according to the study. and 132 of them were disabling. There were 17 deaths. Ohio law requires strollers to have a yellow light mounted on the highest portion of the rear of the vehicle and visible from a distance of at least 1,000 feet. It should also be visible from the sides. Ohio has one of the largest Amish settlements in the country, and not all Amish populations have complied with the law, according to published reports. According to the Martins Ferry Times-Leader, some Amish communities oppose it, apparently on the grounds that the law infringes on their religious freedoms.

Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin also require flashing lights on horse-drawn buggies.

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