- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

When Lovine Yoder and her family have to travel at night, she ensures that the single kerosene lantern that hangs from her driver’s side door is clean and bright, especially because it is the only way they can be seen.

Mrs. Yoder is part of the Swartzentruber sect of Old Order Amish, an ultraconservative sect that fought and won a battle against Pennsylvania’s requirement that all buggies be marked with a reflective red triangle on the back to make them more visible to passing motorists.

Even those safety markings are not always enough to prevent collisions with the “English,” as outsiders are known.

Just Tuesday, two crashes in Pennsylvania’s Somerset County involved horse-drawn carriages. In the first, the driver of a buggy fell off when a horse bolted after being frightened by a passing vehicle. In the second, 10 Amish persons were injured when their buggy was hit from behind by a motorist thought to have been speeding.

Both accidents occurred in broad daylight, so the safety measures of markings and lights weren’t a factor. Even after dark, some say, the safety measures don’t always work.

Buggies with headlights and taillights often end up looking like other cars on the road, Mrs. Yoder said.

“They don’t realize it’s slow-moving until they’re right on it,” she said of the English drivers. That can lead to buggies being struck in the rear by motor vehicles that can’t stop in time.

In 2003, the most recent year for which statistics were available, 55 crashes in Pennsylvania involved horse-drawn buggies, said Steve Chizmar, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. One person was killed and 78 were injured. Mr. Chizmar could not say whether the crashes involved one or two buggies, or a buggy and a motor vehicle.

Members of the Swartzentruber sect have come to accept that they often are in danger while traveling local roads.

“It’s just the way it is,” said Mrs. Yoder, dressed in dark brown and standing on the porch of her home overlooking the family’s farm.

She takes particular caution when driving. Mrs. Yoder steers her horses as close to the side of the road as possible, making note to stay out of the lane of travel. If that’s not possible, and she sees too many vehicles behind her carriage, she pulls onto a driveway or side road so they can pass.

“We try to stay on the back roads,” Mrs. Yoder said. “I don’t like to be out on the highway. I don’t like to [hold cars] up.”

Mrs. Yoder said her family typically sticks close to home and doesn’t travel more than 20 miles. Though the reflective red triangles required by the state for all slow-moving vehicles go against the Swartzentrubers’ religious beliefs, they do use gray reflective tape on their buggies.

• Distributed by Scripps Howard

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