When you drive, be on the look-out for buggies

WATCH OUT FOR BUGGIES — An Amish buggy travels along the road near Middlefield. -- Associated Press

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Now that the weather is warming up, area motorists can expect to encounter more than just cars and trucks on local roadways.

Horse-drawn buggies operated by Amish residents of the region often are out traveling rural roads. Drivers should use caution in areas where they might encounter these slow-moving vehicles, which generally are not lighted and are black in color.

There already have been multiple accidents involving buggies across the Buckeye State this year. Earlier this month, in Middlefield, authorities say a motorcycle struck an Amish buggy. The man driving the motorcycle was killed, and all four people in the horse-drawn vehicle were injured.

Another accident happened last week in Woodsfield. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, a Ford pick-up truck struck an Amish buggy from behind.

Barnesville Police Chief Rocky F. Sirianni said that motorists can expect to encounter horse-drawn buggies on state Routes 800 and 145.

“There are a lot of state routes in the area, they can be twisty and turny. Motorists should be cautious when traveling. There could be a buggy around a sharp turn, and it could be hard to stop,” Sirianni said, warning drivers to be aware.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, statistics show that more than 65 percent of all traffic deaths occur in rural areas and 50 percent of those deaths are on country roads. Ohio reports more than 120 buggy accidents a year, on average.

“A narrow road gives less room to maneuver and can be especially dangerous when passing horse-drawn vehicles. Normal speeds for horse-drawn buggies range between 5 and 8 miles per hour,” ODOT notes. “Horse-drawn vehicles may be even slower when pulling large farm equipment or when crossing intersections because horses are not tractors or cars and will eventually become tired. Another hazard to consider is restricted vision from the driver of the horse-drawn vehicle. When pulling large loads of hay or other equipment, drivers may not be able to see cars behind them. Car drivers, therefore, need to be extra cautious when passing horse-drawn equipment.”

ODOT also cautions motorists to watch for a red triangle symbol mounted on all farm machinery, including road construction equipment and animal-drawn vehicles. Vehicles that display the slow-moving vehicle sign are prohibited, by law, to travel faster than 25 mph. When approaching vehicles with the sign, it should automatically signal drivers to slow down.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Maurice Waddell, new commander of the St. Clairsville post, said that even though buggies are required to have reflective tape, a sign or lights indicating that they are a slow-moving vehicle, people tend to become impatient and want to pass them on curves. That is when accidents can occur, he added.

Waddell said drivers may encounter horse-drawn buggies in the Somerton and Barnesville areas. Local Amish residents also live south of Bethesda, where they travel state Route 26 and Belmont County Road 26 as well as state Route 148 and Belmont County Road 92. Amish craftsmen often are called upon to perform work at other area homes and farms, and the frequently use their buggies to travel to those sites as well.