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Ohio Amish try simple changes to make buggies visible, safer

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    An Ohio State Patrol Trooper works on investigation details at the scene of a crash on Route 58 in Wellington that killed an Amish man.

    BRUCE BISHOP / GAZETTE

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CONGRESS — Members of an especially conservative Amish group in northeast Ohio are adding more reflective features to their black, horse-drawn buggies to increase visibility after some serious crashes.

The Akron Beacon Journal reports 300 Swartzentruber Amish families live in Ashland, Medina and Wayne counties. Buggy crashes in that region killed three people and hurt 17 between January and March, including a fatal crash in Wellington in January. Jon Swartzentruber, 25, of Homerville, was a passenger in a buggy driven by Levi Shetler, 54, of Wellington. The buggy was hit by a truck on Route 58 in Wellington, and both were thrown. Swartzentruber was killed, and Shetler was treated and released from an area hospital.

Less conservative Amish mark slow-moving buggies with colored triangles and reflectors. But Swartzentruber Amish live modestly and resisted those measures, considering them too flashy, said group member Harvey Stutzman.

“The three words that best define us are probably modesty, simplicity and plain,” he said.

Instead, they had used only gray reflective tape and kerosene lanterns hung on buggies. Now, they're adding white rectangles outlined in reflective tape on the back. They'll also have plastic pipe covered in reflective tape stick out slightly from the wheels.

Community leaders are also encouraging other Swartzentrubers to use taller lanterns because they show more of the light's flame compared to smaller ones.

The Swartzentrubers continue to worry that their neighbors are either rushing or driving while being distracted by cellphones.

“It's like they all left for work 15 minutes late. We're basically an object in the road for drivers to avoid,” said business owner Levi Hostetler.

Members of law enforcement acknowledge that the safety issue is a tough compromise.

“It's easy for us to say put lights on their buggies, but it's not their way,” Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Stephanie Norman said.



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