Three accidents involving motorists and horses and buggies have occurred in the last several months and it is time motorists grasp the seriousness of the situation, Kings District RCMP Constable Sonet Sato said.

“They are legal road users just like everyone else and no one should be scared to use the road,” Const Sato added.

Amish families put down roots in rural PEI in 2016. Since then there have been at least four reported collisions with motorists and any number of unreported “close calls.”

The latest serious accident occurred on July 2 at 10:30 pm on Route 320 in Peakes. That investigation is ongoing but no charges have been laid to date.

The driver and passenger in the motorized vehicle suffered minor injuries and the horse had to be put down.

To date there have been no human fatalities.

Const Sato said she can’t stress enough the seriousness of any of the situations.

Graham Miner, director of Highway Safety said the Amish are well aware of the rules and drivers of motor vehicles really need to turn their radar on.

"They (the Amish) have been very receptive to anything we have talked about,” Mr Miner said. "Because they are coming from Ontario and the rules are pretty similar to here the buggies they brought have generally already been equipped.”

The buggies are equipped with proper reflectors, signs and lights as per provincial regulations and there is ample signage indicating their presence.

“The trick is in this era of distracted driving is how do we get keyed in to the environment around us? Mr Miner said.

“It is for the drivers to be aware of where they are,” he added.

Const Sato recently spoke with several members of the Amish families who regularly travel on Route 4 in the Dundas area.

“I have been told motorists are generally respectful,” Constable Sato said. “The only thing that scares them is when there are two vehicles approaching and the first pulls over a bit when meeting the buggy, but the second one passes the first and ends up being very close to the buggy.”

It isn’t a common occurrence, but because they don’t know how the horses will react it is alarming, she added.

“I think that respectfulness is because motorists are aware they could encounter buggies on the road,” Const Sato said. “It is mostly local traffic.”

The accidents that have occurred in eastern PEI have been in the Summerville area, in and around Route 3.

The secondary roads in the area are narrow, but Constable Sato said that shouldn’t make a difference.

“The buggy drivers are well within their legal right to travel on the same part of the road as everybody else,” she said.

The fact that they drive on the side is a courtesy to other motorists.

After the most recent accident the provincial department of Highway Safety set out to review regulations and look at roads where signage and road conditions could be improved.

The PEI Highway Traffic Act has always identified animals in the regulations pertaining to slow moving vehicles, even before the Amish came to PEI, Mr Miner said.

Highway Traffic officials have obtained a horse and buggy driver's manual from Pennsylvania and will meet with the Amish community on PEI soon to review it.

People just need to be aware,” Const Sato said. “If it was your family you would want people to look out for them.”

(1) comment

Leviticus

When the Amish first arrived here I was appalled at their views of safety with regards to their horse drawn vehicles. Little boys at the reins of large drays with two big draft horses galloping along the highway and a bunch of kiddies sitting at the back with their legs dangling. I saw Amish couples driving open buggies with the mother holding a baby in her arms with nothing on it's head other than a cotton cap. If you look at the reports of buggy/motor vehicle collisions in areas like Kitchener/Waterloo with the Mennonites, the usual victims are in fact, children. Children who are in a vehicle on a highway without restraints who are flung off into fields or into oncoming traffic. I was so shocked by what I found I that I contacted the very same Graham Miner mentioned in this article. His response to my concerns was nothing short of contemptuous. I then met with my MLA, Al Roach to discuss my concerns and to ask him to deliver a letter to the then Minister of Transportation, Paula Biggar. I referred to the news articles I had obtained from the Kitchener area and proposed that no child should be in control of a horse drawn vehicle and that children should not be riding on one without some form of restraint. Ms Biggar didn't even deign to reply to a letter handed to her by a fellow Minister. After two buggy and car incidents I met again with Al Roach and he showed surprise that Paula Biggar had not replied and said he would re-present my letter to her. After some weeks I received a letter from her full of excuses and obfuscation, and vague outlines of 'outreach' and searching for guidance or suggestions from other communities in Canada that have horse drawn vehicle sub-cultures. And now, three years later, according to this article, it seems they have obtained something from Pennsylvania. Mr. Miner likes to mention to the media that 'alternative forms of transportation' are wonderful things and makes a point of letting people know that he rides his bicycle to work in Charlottetown. Those are his values, which to me seem ill-suited to his position but be that as it may. But that he and Paula Biggar chose to completely ignore my concerns based on reported and shocking accidents reflects very badly on them. As I told Al Roach, there will be one day - no ifs ands or buts - when an accident here with the Amish that will cost the life of one of their children as it has in Ontaria. My point was, in a motor vehicle you can't drive with your children sitting on the trunk. You can't let a 13 year-old drive and you can't sit in a convertible and drive without wearing a safety belt and just holding an infant in your arms. But if you're Amish, as far as Graham Miner is concerned... that's OK. In fact, it's delightful! The Traffic Code in where it touches on horse drawn conveyances hasn't been altered since 1900 or so. Yet horseback riders along a road have to follow relatively recent laws about wearing hardhats or helmets and children needing to be accompanied by adults. This whole 'aren't the Amish so cute in their carriages' and Graham Miner's dire warnings to motor vehicle drivers about how it's their responsibility to be mindful of horse drawn vehicles won't alter the danger and the risk the Amish are exposing their children to. And when it does happen, when some Amish child is killed, it will be Graham Miner who will bear that responsibility.

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