New York is quickly becoming a popular place for Amish communities. In fact, it's home to around 30 settlements, totaling over 70 church districts. They're coming from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The Pulaski-Williamstown area is home to 25 Amish families, and because of the available farm land, more and more families are calling it home.
Because of their beliefs, the Amish can not go on camera, but they say they're concerned every time they venture onto the roadways. "People have to realize they have a 2 ton vehicle as opposed to a horse and buggy that weigh a few hundred pounds, so when that accident occurs, it's going to be serious," said Pulaski Police Chief Ellery Terpening.
By law, vehicles traveling 25 miles per hour or less must display either a Slow-Moving Vehicle emblem or a red lantern and 72 square inches of reflective tape. Despite that, the accidents continue. "In Seneca County just in the last several days, a horse was required to be put down and one of the occupants of the buggy ended up with a fractured pelvis," said Troop D Sgt. Bernard Kennett. "We also had one in Poland just north of Utica earlier this spring where a vehicle struck a horse head on and that horse was killed."
Drivers say while the lights and reflectors help somewhat, more needs to be done to make the buggies stand out. "I like to see them around, but it is at night kind of dangerous, their buggies are black, so you can't see them very well," Robin Rudd of Boylston said.
Valerie Marshall of Orwell said, "It could be very tragic, not only for them, but for the people who actually hit them, and I wouldn't want to see that for anybody."
Here's what you need to know if you encounter one of these buggies:
- Slow down
- Increase your following distance
- Pass with extreme caution, and only when it's safe
- Horses pulling these vehicles may make quick, unplanned movements, so pay attention.
New York is currently home to North America's sixth largest Amish population. Statistics show that between 1992 and 2007, the state had the largest net gain of 298 Amish families. For now, police are stepping up enforcement on roadways commonly used by Amish, looking out for speeders, people on cell phones, and those driving aggressively or inattentively.