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How to Safely Share the Road in Amish Country

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Photo: Ken Lund

Maybe you’re visiting relatives or embarking on a family road trip to, or near, Amish Country this summer. Whatever the reason the road takes you through these unique rural areas, it’s important to familiarize yourself with safe driving strategies to prevent incidents with buggies. Here are a few things to keep in mind when sharing the road with Amish buggy drivers.

The unique characteristics of country roads

Country roads often have quirks that are quite different from the illuminated asphalt streets found in cities. Rural routes are often narrow and uneven. They sometimes have sharp turns and huge ditches. Even the pastoral setting can pose a risk to transportation safety, since wooded areas and corn fields can obstruct your line of vision as you approach a bend in the road.

Photo: Pexels

Slow-moving vehicle sign

Look out for the red triangular slow-moving vehicle sign when you’re driving through Amish country. This is the legal sign that vehicles traveling slower than 25 mph must bear, to help boost visibility to other drivers who may be traveling faster. This is especially helpful when navigating dark country roads at night, since the red triangle is comprised of reflective material.

Leave a generous following distance

Leaving as much space as possible between your vehicle and a horse-drawn buggy is perhaps the safest strategy to apply when traversing rural paths. Buggies usually travel between 5 to 8 mph, which is significantly slower than cars. “Closure time” is the time a driver has to recognize a slower moving vehicle up ahead and respond accordingly, via braking or shifting lanes. When approaching a buggy stopped at a light or stop sign, a good rule of thumb is to stop your vehicle far enough back that you can see the rear wheels of the buggy touch the road.

Photo: Ad Meskens

Pass slowly and safely

When you pass a buggy, it’s important to give it as much space as you. You also want to do so as slowly and quietly as possible, to avoid startling the horse with sudden or loud vehicle sounds. Only pass a buggy when it’s safe for you to do so. For example, when there’s a clear stretch of road with no oncoming traffic. If you’re approaching a sharp turn in the road, it’s probably best to wait to pass the buggy until the road straightens again, and you’re sure there are no other vehicles driving toward you.

News Sources: Pennsylvania Department of TransportationOhio Department of Transportation