Best Practices for Driving Safely Around a Horse & Buggy

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.