Ohio is home to one of the largest Amish populations in the world, with many of the state's Amish communities located in northeast Ohio. It is estimated that over 36,000 Amish citizens live in Holmes County and its adjacent counties, where tourism draws millions of visitors each year.
Members of the Old Order Amish communities do not drive motorized vehicles or farm equipment, instead relying on horse-drawn buggies. Motorists must remain cautious as they share roads and highways with buggies or other horse-drawn equipment in Amish communities.
Buggies and horse-drawn equipment
Normal speeds for horse-drawn buggies range between five and eight miles per hour. Horse-drawn vehicles may travel even slower when pulling large farm equipment or when crossing intersections.
Reflective slow-moving vehicle signs, shown to the right, are mounted to the back of farm equipment and animal-drawn buggies to warn motorists of their slow traveling speeds.
The potential for restricted vision for horse-drawn vehicle drivers should also be considered. When pulling large loads of hay or other equipment, horse-drawn vehicle drivers may not be able to see cars behind them.
Driving automobiles in Amish communities
Passing horse-drawn vehicles
Automobile drivers should be extremely cautious when passing buggies and horse-drawn equipment. Motorists should pass only when legal and safe. Before passing, anticipate any left hand turns into fields and driveways, and when passing, allow plenty of room. Horses are unpredictable, and passing cars may frighten even the most road-safe horses.
Traveling behind horse-drawn vehicles
When approaching a stop sign or traffic light, motorists should leave extra space – at least 10 to 12 feet – between their car and horse-drawn equipment stopped in front of them. Buggies may back up a few feet after coming to a complete stop.
While traveling behind moving horse-drawn vehicles, motorists should be aware of their closure time. Closure time is the time a driver has to recognize and respond when coming upon other vehicles. Drivers have much less time and distance to react to slow-moving vehicles than other automobiles.
Roadway hazards in Amish communities
Many Amish communities are located in the rolling hills of rural northeast Ohio. In addition to the state and federal highway system, rural roadways are important connections for the communities and tourists alike.
- Rural roads are often narrower or may vary in width more than city streets. Narrow roadways provide less room to maneuver and can be especially dangerous when passing horse-drawn vehicles.
- A loose gravel or grass berm area can also be hazardous.
- Open ditches along rural roads are often deep and close to the road.
- Seemingly open roadways may have sharp dips or unexpected turns.
- In cold weather, a road shaded by trees or buildings may be especially icy.
- Blind corners created by wooded areas, corn fields or other tall crops are also hazardous.