Fatal accident prompts Oswego County debate

A man drives his buggy along Route 812 in Heuvelton in 2014. Watertown Daily Times

OSWEGO COUNTY — A recent car-buggy accident in Mexico, Oswego County, in which an Amish woman died has heightened the discussion of safety for cars and buggies traveling on area roadways.

Oswego County Fire Coordinator Donald Forbes said at the Nov. 4 Oswego County Legislature Public Safety Committee meeting that more awareness is needed of Amish horse-drawn buggies using area roads and how to keep them safe.

Anna J. Miller, 44, Pulaski, died in an accident when the horse-drawn buggy she was traveling in was hit by from behind by a 2018 Ford Fusion Oct. 17 on State Route 3 in the town of Mexico. The Fusion was driven by William E. Twombly, 40, Carthage.

Miller was ejected when the car hit the buggy. She died six days later. Another buggy passenger, Andy A. Miller, 44, also of Pulaski, also was ejected and suffered back injuries.

Twombly was slightly injured. Two horses pulling the buggy were euthanized.

Forbes said the problem is twofold — vehicle drivers not watching for buggies on the road and buggies that often are difficult to see. Amish buggies are all black and can be difficult to see until a driver is almost on top of them, especially after dark or on gloomy days.

The Mexico accident occurred on a dark, overcast day in the daylight at about 3:30 p.m.

Forbes said some counties require better reflective devices be placed on the back of the buggies, such as the bright orange triangles marking slow-moving vehicles that often are seen marking farm equipment. But not all Amish sects will do this, arguing that using the reflective triangles or reflective tape is against their beliefs.

“Some Amish have had success in fighting counties on these laws,” said Oswego County Sheriff Donald Hilton.

Legislator Margaret Kastler, R-Lacona, said the Tug Hill Commission once conducted a workshop on what can be done to make buggies and vehicles safe when they share the road. “They have the right to be on the road and we have to watch out for them,” she said.

In 2013, state Sen. Patricia Ritchie, R-Oswegatchie, began what she called the “Share the Road” program, complete with state budget money to install as many as 100 new reflective road hazard signs and to produce a new brochure, prepared with the help of highway safety experts, to remind drivers to “Share the Road” with slow-moving Amish buggies. She also was behind a push to have more reflective tape or orange triangles placed on the back of buggies.

Some places even require the Amish to have lights on the back of their buggies.

The St. Lawrence County Legislature also took on this issue again after a fatal accident involving an Amish wagon in November 2017 in Oswegatchie. In 2015, legislators worked with Amish bishops to reach an agreement calling for doubling the amount of reflective tape the Amish use on the back of their buggies as well as taping some other places to improve visibility.

A story in the Watertown Daily Times in 2018 stated the majority of Amish communities in St. Lawrence County do not use the bright-colored triangular signs on the back of their buggies, arguing the color does not fit in with their conservative lifestyle. They have said the reflective tape is sufficient. In other parts of the country, the Amish are required to use the signs.

Robert Lighthall, former Oswego County undersheriff who now heads the county’s STOP-DWI program, said he is on the Oswego County Traffic Safety Board, which is in the early stages of exploring the possibility of an informational meeting regarding slow moving vehicles on the highway, including horse drawn buggies.

Lighthall said Sgt. Bernie Kennett of the New York State Police is his contact regarding highway safety and may be helping with the possible informational meeting.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Safety Psychographics

From a different but related previous story elsewhere:

"Bishops need to understand it is not safe to not to have anything on the back end of a buggy to warn drivers."

It has been a personal mission of mine to try to get the Amish, among other drivers of various Slow Moving Vehicles, to get them into at least the 20th century and out of the 18th in the area of effectively marking the backsides of their buggies. The simplest thing I can convey here in this comment is to look at the development that I came up with when hauling ammonia wagons for a co-op years back... motivated by the fact that half of the wagons had faded triangles on them when first encountered. Acting out of self-preservation, I started by modifying a bolt-on triangle enhanced by materials from a dollar store and ended up with a development that earned a patent, plus an award from the agricultural engineering society that nominally oversees such things. What was developed is shown at my website in text, picture and video across multiple pages:


These very triangles [Tri-Color Triangles (tm)] have been seen by hundreds of Amish at two different Horse Progress Days events in Indiana and Illinois, and dozens and dozens were sold to all comers. This patented new development brings the hoary 60+ year old SMV emblem into the 21st century, now fully revamped, and featuring total retro-reflectivity and modern, eye-catching yellow-green outer stripes.

It is simplest take a look at the explanatory text, pictures and videos of this triangle in use by day, night and dusk and then do what you can to convince your local Amishmen and their bishops to take on a little common-sense self-preservation and use the best available equipment to mark their buggies, farm wagons and pony carts with something that finally has a fighting chance of saving their rear ends. Lights, of course, help too! "Extremely-effective safety measures in the defense of buggy passenger protection is no vice!" (with apologies to Barry) [tongue]

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.