Amish road safety concerns on the rise

LISBON – An influx of Amish from the New York state area has the highway patrol concerned for their safety on local roads.

A trooper from the Lisbon post handled a crash Sunday that involved a car versus a buggy, and the 20-year-old Amish couple were taken to the Salem Regional Medical Center.

Trooper Brian Kavanagh cited Alexander Placencia, 30, of Sebring Street, East Palestine, for assured clear distance after the 2014 Chrysler 200 he was driving struck the back of the buggy while both were westbound on state Route 46 near Bye Road in Unity Township at 3:13 p.m.

Placencia was not injured but Uria N. Byler and his wife Emma Sue Byler, of Neeld Road, East Palestine, had minor injuries, and the roughly 12-year-old standard breed horse driving them was put down on Monday for the injuries it sustained to its hind legs.

The posted speed limit on that road is 55 miles per hour, and Placencia was going that fast at the time of the crash, according to the report.

The impact destroyed the buggy.

Patrol Sgt. Craig Monte said the accident is the first in Columbiana County involving an Amish buggy, and he is concerned there may be more, if motorists are not paying attention.

Like others, he has heard Amish families from New York are turning to this area to get away from stricter regulations among their sect.

“All indications are the Amish community in Columbiana County is going to continue to grow,” he said.

The families are mainly choosing the Rogers, East Palestine and Negley areas, he added.

Middleton Township Fiscal Officer Bob Chapman said at the latest township meeting more Amish are being seen in the area, and that they are mostly from New York. He had also heard it was due to the regulations there.

Township Trustee Nancy Michaels said some Amish have lived on state roads just outside the township for the last couple of years, but more are now taking up residence in the township on Pioneer and Millrock roads.

The township recently purchased four Amish buggy road signs that will be posted on those roads to warn drivers to be on the lookout while traveling through. The signs cost $68 a piece.

Monte said signs have also been posted by the Ohio Department of Transportation on state roads.

Michaels said signs have been up for a few years on state Routes 7 and 154 in Rogers.

“Just be aware, if you see a sign up, just watch out for them,” she said.

Monte said drivers should share the road with the Amish with courtesy, respect and understanding.

“Amish buggies have every legal right to be on the the roadway. Have a knowledge that these Amish buggies are on the roadways,” he said.

While most buggies stay closer to the edgeline in order to make room for vehicle traffic, they often don’t have much leeway for moving over, he added.

“Roads in this part of the county have steep hills, crests and sharp, hairpin curves,” he said.

All buggies are required to display the orange triangle identifying them as slow moving vehicles and front and back lights, he said, but the sign and lights can’t always be seen when it comes to hills and curves.

Motorists should assume a buggy could be over a hill or around a corner and proceed with caution.

“Use extreme caution with the unknown,” he said.

Patrol Sgt. Ian Roberts of the Wooster post in Wayne County said motorists should never do anything that may spook a horse driving a buggy. Honking horns, yelling or making other loud noises should be avoided at all costs.

Monte reached out to Roberts for advice on how to deal with the growing Amish population from a road safety standpoint since Wooster has a heavy Amish population.

Monte said he hopes once more people are aware of Amish using local roads future accidents will be avoided.