ELKHART — Sheriff Brad Rogers spoke on Monday about the newly printed Horse and Buggy Driver’s Manual that will be distributed by the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department. The manual comes about a year after an accident killed two Amish girls.
The 34-page manual was put together by police from Elkhart and LaGrange counties, Amish group the Northern Indiana Safety Association, police and safety groups from Pennsylvania, and Ohio State University. NISA paid for the production of the manual, according to Rogers.
Rogers said the manuals will be distributed to Amish churches, which will distribute them to parishioners. The manual is free of charge to anyone who wants one, including those who drive gas-powered vehicles.
Indiana state Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, sees the new manual as a supplement to the safety education Amish children currently receive on operating buggies, wagons and other vehicles.
Area officials and Amish leaders sat down to talk about safety after a crash between an SUV and a pony cart killed two Amish girls and injured several other children Sept. 5, 2011.
Yoder said the idea was that an Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department representative would visit Amish schools to discuss the guidelines.
“Maybe coming from the sheriff or a person of authority, it’ll resound a little more with these families,” said Yoder, who has close ties with the Amish community.
The Amish were involved in crafting the manual, he said, and he suspects they’ll embrace it. Amish leaders recognize a need for education, he added, which can vary from family to family and Amish school to Amish school.
“They were cognizant of the fact they did present a danger at times, not just to themselves but to others,” Yoder said.
The new manual sets no age standards, though it suggests children be at least 10 before driving a pony cart.
The age of the six children in the pony cart and trailer involved in last year’s accident ranged from 4 to 10 and the two girls killed were 10 and 7.
That crash was the 20th in two years involving a buggy or cart and a motorized vehicle, though it was the first fatality in that time.
Since then, buggy crashes in Elkhart and western LaGrange counties have claimed two lives and injured at least seven more people.
The ages of Amish operators remains a pertinent issue for Yoder and discussion on the topic will continue. “Frankly, we can’t have kids being killed on our highways if we can prevent it,” he said.
Truth Reporter Justin Leighty contributed to this story.