ASHLAND — Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill earlier this week that requires Amish buggies and other animal-drawn vehicles to display a yellow flashing light while driving on public streets.
Republican representatives Darrell Kick of Loudonville and Scott Wiggam, of Wooster, co-sponsored the law, House Bill 30, that is intended to reduce the crashes between Amish buggies and motorized vehicles.
A 2019 Ohio Department of Transportation Statewide Amish Travel Study found there were 723 buggy crashes between 2009 and 2019.
Around 350 crashes caused injuries and 132 of them were incapacitating, according to the study. There were 17 fatalities. About 65% of the crashes with buggies happened while passing.
There were 120 crashes with buggies in 2020, and 60% of those happened during the day, according to committee testimony from Wiggam. His district, just east of Ashland County, includes a large Amish community.
The new law requires buggies to have a light mounted on the top-most portion of the vehicle’s rear. It must be visible from the sides and lit at all hours. An earlier version of the law required buggies have two red lights on the back and a white light on the front, but they only had to be lit after dusk.
Ohio has the largest Amish settlement population in the nation, according to 2021 estimates from the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College.
One of the settlements, in Holmes County, is estimated to have 37,770 people and the other, in Geauga County area, is estimated to have 19,420.
There were 27 pages of testimony submitted by unidentified members of the “Amish community” as part of the state’s committee review process.
“I always have a fear when we get on the road … I would be willing to put a small battery-operated (device) on our buggies, which I think would be a huge help,” someone noted in a hand-written letter dated March 1, 2021.
The law’s passing comes on the heels of an announcement that both sides of a nearly six-mile section of State Route 545 in Ashland County is slated to receive eight-foot wide buggy lanes.
The project, which officials estimated wouldn’t begin until spring of 2025, is funded through a $5 million grant from ODOT.
The buggy lanes will be built on Ohio 545 between Ohio 96 to the southern corporation limit of the Village of Savannah, a 5.73-mile stretch.