Amish continue long-held traditions
- except on safety issues
By DAVID BAINBRIDGE
The Amish in LaGrange County
are well-known for doing many things exactly as they were done
long before the turn of the century.
The horse-drawn buggies and wagons which provide the major source
of transportation for most of the Amish citizens haven't changed
much since the days when the vehicles were commonplace. It is
estimated that there are nearly 5,500 buggies in the county,
with more than 9,000 in the Elkhart-LaGrange County Amish community.
While the animals and vehicles themselves remain relatively unchanged,
accessories to the Amish buggies and wagons have been changing
in the latter half of this century due to legal and safety issues.
Most of the changes have been legislated or voluntarily added
to combat accidents during twilight and nighttime hours.
According to a study conducted by the state of Ohio, the time
of day when buggy accidents are most likely to occur ranges from
6 a.m. to 10 p.m. with three peak periods: 5 to 7 a.m. (21 percent
of the buggy accidents); 1 to 3 p.m. (18 percent of the accidents);
and 5 to 7 p.m. (29 percent of the accidents).
The majority of the accidents involving motor vehicles and horse-drawn
buggies were a result of rear impact (42 percent) or side impact
(37 percent), according to the study.
Of all buggy accidents examined in the report, nearly 10 percent
resulted in fatalities.
One of the first buggy-safety accessories adopted by the Amish
was the slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem.
The triangular orange SMV emblem was approved as an American
Society of Agricultural Engineers Standard in 1972.
Although the Amish have been legally required to put the emblem
on their buggies since the mid-'70s, according to a representative
of the Fort Wayne Indiana State Police post, Indiana law now
specifies that the emblem should be placed in the center of the
buggy visible to the rear of the vehicle within 2 to 6 feet from
the surface of the road.
The use of rear taillights is another development added to Amish
buggies within the past few decades. The 4-inch round taillight
is suggested as the most visible by both an Amish and non-Amish
test panel in the Ohio study.
More recently, there has been a call - both from within the Amish
community and outside of it - for Amish residents of LaGrange
County to begin using reflective tape on their buggies to help
make them more visible from the side at night.
The tape kits were introduced in October 1998 by E&S Creations,
2480W - 175N. The effort to make the kits available to the public
is sponsored by the Northern Indiana Family Safety Committee.
The kits are assembled and packaged at ARC Opportunities in Howe
by developmentally challenged workers.
Ervin Miller, owner and operator of E&S Creations, is in
charge of distribution. "It's a totally local operation,"
Miller said. He emphasized that current regulations for Amish
buggies do not require the use of reflector tape on the sides
of the vehicles.
Steve Engelking, LaGrange County Purdue extension agent, who
helped originate the project, recently received an OK from county
commissioners to use county funds to pay $2,100 for a direct
mailing to local Amish residents concerning the availability
of the kits.