New Ohio law HB30, which went into effect at the end of August, requires Amish buggies and other animal-drawn vehicles to display a new type of high-visibility tape and a yellow flashing light when on public streets.
Law enforcement agencies in Northeast Ohio have been working to educate the Amish community about the new requirements.
“We have been doing a soft-enforcement approach,” Chief Deputy Richard Haun of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office told The Ohio Star. “When we see a violation we do a stop on that particular vehicle and educate the operator about what the new law is and what changes need to be made. We obviously record this. If we see the same offenders again we transition to a penalized stop,” he added.
HB30, sponsored by State Representatives Scott Wiggam (R-Wayne County) and Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) aims to reduce the number of crashes involving Amish buggies and motorized vehicles.
“Many of Ohio’s districts, including our own, are home to rural communities that travel by animal-drawn buggies. As a result, these individuals are not as visible as traditional vehicles and this poses a risk to both parties. This bill aims to increase the safety of citizens who travel by both traditional cars and animal-drawn buggies. This is good legislation that will save both Amish lives and English tears,” Wiggam said in a press release when the bill was introduced in 2020.
According to the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office, the buggy-light law did give the Amish community a generously framed grace period to come into compliance. During this time the sheriff’s office and other agencies attempted to educate the community about the dangers potentially in place when buggies share the roads with cars and trucks.
Prior to this law, according to Haun, Holmes County had an Amish Safety Committee that has been crucial in getting the word out to the Amish community. Haun said that so far the Amish have been receptive to the new law and have made strides toward being in compliance. He suspects, however, that some of the old orders of Amish may be more of a challenge to bring into compliance with the measure.
“I was at the last Amish Health and Safety Day. They are actively trying to get in compliance. They are working towards those goals,” Haun said.
Ohio Revised Code used to only require one white light on the front of buggies, two red lights on the rear (or one red light and two red reflectors on the rear), and a state-compliant slow-moving vehicle triangular emblem or 72-inches of reflective tape to the rear.
Ohio is second only to Pennsylvania in Amish population, with approximately 76,200 Amish individuals calculated in 2019, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.
According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, there were more than 150 crashes across the state in 2021 involving Amish buggies.
Haun said that compliance with these new safety measures is very important in Holmes County, as it is full of cresting hills and has minimal flat areas, factors that increase the visual difficulty for motor vehicles.
According to Haun, they will end the soft enforcement when the office feels like they have informed a majority of the community about the new requirements.
Violation of the new law inflicts a fine of $150, and repeat offenders could face jail time.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]