A Crash of Cultures

Nowhere is the clash of cultures between the Amish and the mainstream so apparent as it is on the road. There was another car and buggy accident on June 27 as reported here. The driver of the Ford truck that crashed into the buggy was apparently not under the influence and it is not reported how fast he was driving.

It is easy to assume that the car or truck drivers are at fault in these accidents, but that is not always the case. The horse can get spooked and bolt into the path of danger or a car driver may not see the buggy until it’s too late, for reasons beyond his or her control. This can be exacerbated by the refusal by some Amish communities (most often the Schwartzentruber groups) to use reflective triangles or battery-powered lights on their buggies. They use oil lamps on the sides of the buggies instead, which can be pretty dim and make their buggies invisible at night until you are right on them, especially in hilly areas.

Buggies fly apart on impact, as you can see from the photos. There is no protection for the horse or the passengers. In this case a young couple and their child were in the buggy and they were all three badly hurt. The horse had to be “put down.”

I remember, in my Amish days, that there were times when riding along in a buggy on a busy road was nerve-wracking. The danger was often so close, we could reach out and touch it, especially when car and truck drivers passed too close to the buggy or when they passed with something coming from the other direction.

I will never forget the heart-wrenching funeral of a first cousin, Elva, who died on Christmas Day, after sustaining injuries from a buggy crash. In that case, it was the horse that got spooked and bolted into the path of an oncoming car. The crash also involved Elva’s twin sister, Ella, and Ella’s boyfriend (now husband), Jonas, who survived.

Ella and Jonas are grandparents today. In fact, they are the grandparents of twelve orphaned children as a result of that horrific accident in New York State. Their daughter, Elva, was the mother of those twelve children. Ella and Jonas have known their share of sorrows. It is so ironic that both Ella’s sister and a daughter by the same name died in accidents, yet one was riding in a buggy, the other in a van.
These accidents alter people’s lives forever. I can only imagine the nightmares that survivors of such crashes must have, whether they were riding or driving in the car or the buggy. I honestly don’t know how one even begins to prevent these accidents, short of building “buggy roads” in Amish areas, much the way bike ways are built in many areas of this country, sometimes utilizing old railroad beds. So much of the infrastructure in this country is geared for the automobile. Perhaps the military portion of income taxes the Amish pay could be used to pay for these buggy roads. 
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4 thoughts on “A Crash of Cultures”

  1. I live in an area that is close to several Amish communities and sometimes meet a buggy with three teenage boys on my way to work. Knowing they might be around the next bend in the road keeps my speed down and when I do spot them I take my foot off the accelerator (which switches the car into electric mode) and pull over as close to shoulder as possible. Anyone living in a neighboring area has choices to make. We can zip around our twisty, windy roads or we can slow down and remain vigilant when lighting is terrible. Okay, off my soapbox. Nan

  2. Terrible accident – not much left of the buggy, for sure. I don’t know what can be done, either, Saloma, but I do like your idea of separate roads for buggies – maybe for ALL non-motorized vehicles. Might be a good use for old RR beds.

  3. How sad and tragic! I have been involved in 3 car accidents myself. If you survive the affects are lingering. Your suggestion at the end is a good one. It would be nice if someone would listen. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  4. Horrible and tragic and often preventable. :( Having just come back from Lancaster, my husband and I were wondering why they don’t widen the roads to accomodate the buggies better. They certainly have just as much right to the roads as anyone else, though not everyone thinks so. But those would be self-centered people to think that.

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