Montgomery County

Amish hope crashes don’t spoil acceptance

Though two of their brethren were injured on the roads last week, an Amish elder on Friday said the

Though two of their brethren were injured on the roads last week, an Amish elder on Friday said the religious farmers are hoping the accidents don’t spoil the pleasant relationship that exists between the Amish and non-Amish residents of Montgomery County.

According to state police, a car driven by Joseph J. Seney, 51, of Gloversville, was headed north on state Route 30A around 10:25 p.m. when he passed one Amish horse and buggy and slammed head-on into another one.

The horse broke free, ran about a mile down the road and was hit and killed by another car just minutes later.

The Amish man driving the buggy, Noah Shelter, 21, of Glen, was taken to Albany Medical Center and treated for injuries.

There was another collision the next evening between a car and an Amish horse and buggy on New Turnpike Road near St. Johnsville, according to Montgomery County Undersheriff Jeffery T. Smith.

The drivers escaped serious injury but the horse had to be put down because of the injuries it suffered in the 11 p.m. crash, Smith said.

In the wake of the accident on state Route 30A, the Amish faith community in the town of Glen appointed Elias Keim to gather information to follow up on any claims of liability that might arise.

Keim on Friday said Amish residents there are “quite concerned” about the situation — not about the safety of the Amish, but rather on the impact the accidents could have on their good relationship with the non-Amish.

He said non-Amish were living here and driving cars before the Amish arrived.

“We do not want to cause the outside society any regrets for us moving here,” said Keim, who added he hoped they could blend in and be seen as an asset to the area. “We do recognize there are differences, especially in our modes of transportation.

“We’re asking to be considered where maybe we do not have a right to that because we were not here first,” he said, as a group of curious chickens gathered around his driveway where he was working.

Amish farmers who started buying farms and moving into the county on the south side of the Mohawk River in the last several years have different beliefs from those on the north side, who moved into Montgomery County in the 1980s.

Those on the north side of the river typically use the bright orange triangles as seen on modern farm vehicles.

But the newer residents were at odds with authorities last year when one of their members got a ticket for riding a horse and buggy with a fluorescent white triangle, not the orange kind used to signify a slow-moving vehicle.

About 25 Amish farmers went to the Sheriff’s Department to discuss the issue and told authorities they prefer to be “plain” and the bright orange triangles violate that commitment. The ticket was tossed. But since then, Keim said the faith community agreed to go one step further by installing battery-operated flashers on buggies to increase their visibility.

“We thought for safety’s sake … we all agreed on putting on those warning flashers,” he said.

Keim said the buggy driven by Shelter last Saturday was completely fitted with all the safety gear. He said those at the scene recall Seney, who was driving the car, claiming he didn’t see any safety flashers.

Calls to Seney’s residence were not returned Friday.

“We have witnesses,” Keim said of the Amish and non-Amish onlookers who were around before and after last Saturday’s crash on state Route 30A. “That vehicle was fully equipped with lights and the safety flashers in front and in back,” Keim said, as he loaded five-gallon buckets of soil onto the back of a small buggy, his horse waiting impatiently in its harness.

He said some friends who went to the scene at first light the next day started collecting evidence along the roadside, including pieces of the flashers.

“Those flashers were still flashing in the ditch,” he said.

Since being appointed by the sect to gather information, Keim said he’s been frustrated trying to get a copy of any police accident report on the crash that injured Shelter. He said he’d made five trips to state police trying to get a report and by Friday feared it would no longer be valid.

Troop G spokeswoman Trooper Maureen Tuffey on Friday said state police used to provide accident reports for $15 but stopped doing it altogether. Now, people get state police accident reports from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

DMV spokesman Nicholas Cantiello provided The Daily Gazette with a link to the DMV website that people use to request these accident reports.

Most Amish don’t use electricity, let alone the Internet, so both Tuffey and Cantiello said they’d make an effort to either get Keim the report or a copy of the request form for the report so he could mail it in.

Glen Town Supervisor Lawrence Coddington this week said despite the growth in the Amish population and use of slow-moving, horse-drawn vehicles, there’s little the town can do to improve roadway safety.

Speed limit changes require requests to the state Department of Transportation, and Coddington said the town has asked for reductions on several roads in the past.

Most recently, he said, the state allowed a reduction of the speed limit on Lusso Road from 55 mph to 45 mph.

But he said changing the speed limit doesn’t necessarily make the road safer.

“Usually a speed limit doesn’t slow anybody down that much,” Coddington said.

He said he sees people driving on state Route 5S as fast as 65 mph and 70 mph all the time.

He said he’s seen several instances where motorists were passing Amish buggies in areas where there are double painted lines separating the lanes.

Passing is allowed only when there are dotted lines in the middle of the road.

Rural and main roadways are often traveled not only by Amish farmers with horse-drawn buggies or wagons but also by non-Amish farmers in slow-moving tractors hauling combines, manure spreaders and other farm implements.

“It’s just a case where people have got to be a little more careful … use a little common sense.” Coddington said.

He said over the past year, he’s noticed the Amish buggies have become even more visible. “They’re trying harder to have lights,” he said, mentioning the strobe flashers he’s been seeing on them.

“They are very visible. If you are driving and you are alert and aware, you’ll see them,” Coddington said.

Smith said he doesn’t perceive any marked increase in the number of accidents involving Amish horse-drawn wagons.

There are a lot of the buggies on the roads in the county, Smith said, with such traffic heavier on Route 30A. “It’s just mostly education and it’s important that the Amish use all the safety precautions that are required, which to our knowledge, they are.”

The Amish work long days and are on the roads late at night and early in the morning when it’s dark.

Smith said other factors have to be considered when looking into traffic accidents, including the weather.

The region was hit with a freak October snowstorm the day of the collision on route 30A.

“There’s a contributing factor for most every accident. Most of the time there’s a reason for it, whether it’s driver inattention, imprudent speed, lack of visibility, weather conditions,” Smith said. “I think right now they’re as safe as can be.”

He said people driving on rural roadways with blind corners, dips and bends need to realize it’s difficult to stop fast when they are traveling at 55 mph compared with a horse-drawn buggy moving at 10 or 15 mph.

“The stopping distance is going to be limited and the ability to stop and take evasive action. You just have to be mentally prepared.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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