By: Christine M. Irvin
Picture this: Peaceful countryside, rolling hills, Amish farms along the road, Amish buggies on the road. A pleasant place to go for a Sunday afternoon drive, wouldn’t you say? Then, a car goes zipping by, passing you on a double-yellow line while traveling uphill, with a horse and buggy coming the opposite direction. Suddenly, things aren’t so peaceful, are they?
Unfortunately, although the Amish are laid-back and never seem to be in a hurry, as evidenced by their use of the horse and buggy and animal-powered machinery, we English (that’s what the Amish call those who don’t belong to their community) tend to want to speed things up. In Amish country, that can be a real problem.
Why? There are many factors. First, you can expect to meet a buggy or two on your trip through their part of the country. Bear in mind that a horse-drawn buggy generally goes only 5 to 8 mph. That’s very slow by most peoples’ standards. If the horses are pulling farm equipment behind them, they will probably be traveling even slower. Getting behind one can make a driver impatient.
And, drivers of horse and buggies don’t have the same “rear view” and “side view” mirrors as motorized vehicles do. Therefore, their visibility may be limited or blocked. Keep that in mind when following such a vehicle. Allow for “assured clear distance” when following a buggy and be aware of what is referred to as “closure time,” the time it will take you to recognize and respond to a slow-moving vehicle in front of you. When stopping behind a horse-drawn vehicle, know that the horses pulling it may take a step or two backwards before coming to a complete stand still. Adjust your following distance accordingly.
Speaking of horses, they can be very unpredictable. The driver may be trained in the rules of the road, but the horses haven’t been. They may react differently than expected.
While keeping those things in mind, follow these rules to keep yourself and other drivers safe:
Slow-moving vehicles have the triangular “slow-moving vehicle” sign for a reason: They will be traveling slowly on the roads. You must slow down for them when you are following them, they don’t have to speed up for you.
Pass only when it’s safe AND legal to do so. Never, ever, ever pass a buggy near the top of a hill. They may be going too slow to suit you, but you can’t see what’s coming over the crest of the hill.
Following these rules and keeping these things in mind can help everyone have a pleasant and safe drive through Amish country.