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.”