Time for Amish buggy driving tests?

A deadly Labor Day accident raises questions about the safety of letting children take horse-drawn carts into traffic

There are no age restrictions or skill tests for Amish buggy driving, but after a deadly crash in Indiana, critics say there ought to be.
(Image credit: CC BY: Tony the Misfit)

Two Amish children were killed and three others injured in a Labor Day accident in Indiana, after the 10-year-old at the reins of a pony cart pulled out of a driveway and into the path of an SUV. The tragedy has ignited a debate over whether it should be legal for young children to drive horse-drawn buggies on open roads. Here, a brief guide:

How old must a kid be to drive a carriage?

The Indiana Driver's Manual says people in horse-drawn vehicles have the same rights and responsibilities as all other drivers — but the law sets no minimum age for buggy drivers. In Amish communities, it's apparently as natural to see a child driving a pony cart as it is to see a kid on a bike or a scooter in your neighborhood.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Do these kids get any sort of instruction?

Yes. Many Amish communities use a workbook to teach youngsters the rules of the road — but typically not until seventh or eighth grade. The driver in the Labor Day tragedy was several years younger.

Will the accident change things?

Maybe. Some politicians believe it's time for a "skills test" similar to the one necessary to get a driver's license. "If it's used for recreation — a cart, buggy, tractor, or bike," says Wes Culver, a Republican state lawmaker, as quoted by WSBT, "I would be in favor of having an approved age where children could legally use it on the roadway."

And as is, horse carriages aren't subject to any traffic laws?

Oh, they are. An Amish man in Ohio, for example, was charged earlier this year with driving his buggy over the center line, after he clipped an oncoming car while drag racing with another horse-drawn carriage. In New York state, a 17-year-old was ticketed for underage possession of alcohol and driving his horse too hard after leading police on a low-speed chase in his buggy. In some states, Amish people have been charged with being drunk at the reins, although in some states you have to be in a motorized vehicle to get a DUI.

Sources: Aol News, Reuters, WSBT, Wash. St. DUI

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us