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Best Practices for Driving Safely Around a Horse & Buggy

Jason Reese

Synopsis

  • LaGrange County Sheriffs say that alcohol played a role in a car vs. horse and buggy crash that killed two women and injured both the driver of the buggy and the driver of the car.
  • Drivers can make errors that cause their vehicle to collide with horse-drawn buggies due to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, while distracted by a phone, or when overestimating the time needed to safely pass a buggy or slow down.
  • National figures suggest the number of deaths from collisions between automobiles and horse-drawn buggies remains fairly constant, but drunk drivers create an even deeper impact on fatal numbers.
  • Indiana has the third-largest population of Amish in the U.S., with most communities located in Elkhart and LaGrange counties. Drivers need to watch out for these buggies while traveling through these areas and acknowledge, it is never the right time to drive if drinking.

Alcohol Was a Factor in Deadly LaGrange County Horse and Buggy Crash

Recent news reports of an early morning fatal horse and buggy crash in LaGrange County say a 21-year-old drunk driver was responsible. The young and irresponsible driver reportedly hit the horse and buggy from behind after making a pass of another vehicle and then returning to the westbound land on 800 South. The buggy victims included a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl. Both died at the scene. The driver of the buggy sustained a serious neck injury and was transported by ambulance to the hospital. The driver responsible for the horrific crash was also was taken to the hospital. Officers with the LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department say charges are sure to follow as the investigation continues.

National figures suggest the number of deaths from collisions between motor vehicles and horse-drawn buggies remains fairly constant. When you add risky drunk drivers to the mix, there becomes renewed concerns about safety for all buggy passengers. And even though horse-drawn vehicles have the same rights and responsibilities as any other vehicles in Indiana, everyone is at risk for being involved in a serious accident when sharing the roadways with drivers who are under the influence. Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those lost in this senseless tragedy.

How to Avoid a Collision with a Horse-Drawn Buggy

Well first. Don’t drink and drive. But even without alcohol, motorists still make serious errors that too often cause their vehicle to collide with horse-drawn buggies. These common errors are mostly due to distraction or making an overestimation of the time they have to pass a buggy or slow down at the right speed. Here is a review of the most likely accident scenes related to a vehicle colliding with a buggy.

  • Rear-end accidentscan occur when a motor vehicle crashes into the back of a horse-drawn buggy. The results are often deadly. These are also the most common buggy vs. motor vehicle accidents.
  • Passing accidents happen when a motor vehicle attempts to pass another vehicle or a buggy and hits a buggy just as begins to turn left.
  • Intersection accidentscan occur when a buggy is struck by a motor vehicle as the rig enters an intersection from a driveway, parking lot, or local road.
  • Left-turn accidents are frightening and can easily happen when a motor vehicle strikes a buggy that is making a left turn into a driveway or local road.

With help from the Indiana Department of Transportation, our team has collected a few suggested driving practices to obey when sharing the road with a horse-drawn buggy.

  • Don’t compete with the horse/s. Horse-drawn buggies are slow when pulling heavy loads or when crossing intersections with normal speeds typically around 10 mph. However, some buggy horses are faster and can reach speeds of 18 to 20 mph on an open roadway rather quickly. As you approach and pass a horse-drawn buggy, remember that horses are not machines and they can also be unpredictable. These strong animals may get tired and slow down, or sometimes they speed up or run off path. Also, remember that some horses may easily spook at a fast-moving vehicle, bright lights such as flashing headlights or a loud noise like a revving engine or beeping horn. Avoid racing or interacting with the horse while driving and instead focus on getting to the destination safely.
  • You may be traveling in a blind spot. Pass with extra caution. A horse-drawn buggy driver may have limited visibility. When pulling a large load, the buggy driver may not be able to see a passenger vehicle to the rear. For these reasons, you need to be extra cautious when passing horse-drawn buggies. Be sure to slow down and give buggies and horse-drawn equipment plenty of room when passing. Also watch for horse-drawn buggies making left turns into fields and driveways. Passing a horse and buggy should only be done when there are clear sight lines for hundreds of feet and never on hills or curves.
  • Leave room and respect the space needed. Sometimes, horses get nervous at intersections and back up a few feet after coming to a complete stop. Because of this, you need to leave some space between your vehicle and a buggy stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. It is best to stay back and leave about 10 to 12 feet of space between your vehicle and the buggy.
  • Drive slowly. Operate without distraction … and always alcohol free. A speeding car can bear down on a buggy going under 10 miles-per-hour very quickly, and a distracted or drunk driver is less likely to notice the danger. It’s never advisable to drive distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but it’s especially dangerous in Amish country where drivers and buggy passengers are not protected by airbags or the walls and roofs of vehicles.

Indiana has the third-largest population of Amish in the U.S., behind Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the state’s largest and oldest settlements of Amish are located in Elkhart and LaGrange counties, according to Amish America. There are also smaller, newer settlements, such as the one in eastern Indiana near Economy and Hagerstown where you will often see horse-drawn buggies on the roads. Watch out for these buggies while you are traveling to keep everyone who is sharing the road safe.

Accident and Personal Injury Legal Support for Indiana’s Amish Country

If you or someone you know has been injured in a buggy accident or involved in a drunk driving accident, please call our Indiana-based vehicular accident attorneys for your risk-free, no-cost consultation: (888) 204-8440. You can also request a meeting with the personal injury lawyer at Wagner Reese by completing our online form. One of our attorneys will be in touch shortly after.

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