Most residents of Pennsylvania are familiar with sharing the roads with the horse-drawn buggies of the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish communities. However, out-of-state and international visitors to the Keystone State might be unsure about how to navigate around these vehicles safely. They have as much right to be there as any other road user, and the key might be to be courteous and respectful to fellow travelers, regardless of the mode of transport.
If you are a member of an Amish community, you or a loved one might have suffered the consequences of an accident in which an automobile or a big rig struck your buggy. The fact that occupants of carriages have no protection increases the chances of them suffering catastrophic injuries. Such accidents are prevalent because millions of tourists flock to the scenic Pennsylvania countryside every year, and safety authorities say records of the past decade show hundreds of auto vs. buggy accidents.
Facts about buggy accidents
While many buggies have battery operated blinkers and lights along with orange triangles to indicate slow-moving vehicles, they do not typically come with seatbelts and airbags. This explains why victims of these crashes usually suffer blunt force trauma injuries. Those who survive these accidents often suffer head trauma and fractured arms and legs.
The chosen color for most buggies is gray or black, and difficult to see. Motorists must also note that even if lights make buggies visible at night, the horses will not be easy to see.
The availability of pamphlets to equip visiting drivers with practical advice to promote safe driving where buggies are present might provide you with some level of comfort. The following notes on the pamphlets intend to provide visitors with a basic understanding of the ways to avoid accidents when sharing the roads with buggies:
- Allow more reaction time by increasing the following distance and allowing more space between buggy and auto.
- When a motorist wants to pass a buggy, the driver must slow down the approach and only pass when it is safe. He or she must then allow at least 20 feet ahead of the horses before re-entering the travel lane.
- Avoid blowing the horn because it could spook the horses.
- Be aware of the horses, especially after dark, to avoid collisions when turning or creating too-short passing zones.
- Note that buggies may roll back after stopping. Drivers should allow several feet when they stop behind buggies.
- Drivers must keep a lookout for buggy operators' hand signals, and note that they have to blend into the traffic lanes when they want to turn.
As the operator of a buggy, you might be wise to keep in mind that not all motorists will follow the pamphlet's advice, and respect and courtesy are not guaranteed.
Your legal rights as a buggy rider
The civil justice system of Pennsylvania allows you to take the same steps as any other road accident victim if another party's negligence caused you physical, emotional and financial harm in a buggy vs. auto accident. An experienced personal injury attorney can answer your questions, explain your rights and advocate for you throughout the legal procedures of a lawsuit in pursuit of damage recovery.