Two recent crashes on the same road in Indiana’s Elkhart County highlight the dangers of distracted driving accidents involving motor vehicles and horse-drawn buggies.
On May 29, a 17-year-old girl who rear-ended a buggy carrying an Amish couple and their 6-week-old baby on Indiana State Road 13 near County Road 34 told police that she got distracted and didn’t see the buggy until it was too late to avoid the accident. On June 2, another distracted driver rear-ended a buggy carrying an Amish woman and her 4-year-old child.
Neither accident resulted in life-threatening injuries.
But the accidents show motorists often overestimate the time they have until they reach a horse-drawn buggy and don’t make a move to pass or slow down soon enough.
Barbara Zortman, director of the Center for Traffic Safety in York, Pennsylvania, recommends that people who are traveling in plain country increase their awareness and decrease their speed.
“Lots of accidents we see involve horse-drawn equipment that came out of nowhere, like around corners or over the crest of a hill,” she said.
Last year, there were 20 crashes involving animal-drawn vehicles in Elkhart County, Capt. James Bradberry of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department told the Elkhart Truth.
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.
As a doctoral candidate at Ohio State University, Cory Anderson analyzed the causes of buggy crashes in several Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities and determined that one of the main ones is motorists overestimating how fast buggies are traveling and coming up behind them quicker than expected. He also found that drivers exhibited careless or risky behavior, including distracted driving, impaired driving and making careless passes around buggies.
Some roadways in Elkhart and LaGrange counties have wider shoulders, sometimes called “buggy lanes,” which allow cars to pass buggies without crossing the center line.
But the Indiana Department of Transportation doesn’t have plans to add buggy lanes on State Road 13 between Middlebury and Millersburg, where three buggy accidents have occurred this year.
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