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Remember others and slow down


February 03, 2010
On a recent morning, at about nine o'clock, an Amish buggy was westbound on S.R. 160 about 12 miles east of Salem, when, according to police, an SUV struck the buggy, killing two young Amish boys.

The weather was clear and it was daylight; I don't know what happened, I wasn't there. But, according to reports, the SUV came up behind the buggy and hit it. I didn't know the Amish boys, nor did I know the driver of the SUV. But I do know that it was an awful accident — and one that could have been avoided.

I'm sure the driver of the SUV was devastated, and you don't get over something like that for a long time, if ever. And my heart goes out to the Amish family whose sons will never come home again.

I was in a restaurant that day, having lunch, when I overheard two guys talking about the accident. "Those buggies should never be allowed on the road," one of the men said. "They're just an accident waiting to happen."

I couldn't disagree more. The Amish have every right to be on the roads. They pay taxes just like the rest of us. And they have places to go and things to do, just like the rest of us. We, and the way we drive, are the accident waiting to happen. Everyone seems to be in a hurry everywhere they go. I've seen drivers make obscene gestures at the Amish just because they had to slow down and wait a couple of minutes to pass a buggy.

Most people are kind and considerate to our Amish neighbors, and the Amish are kind and considerate to us. The Amish I know, and consider friends, are the most gentle people I know. Almost every community has Amish families these days, and we have to learn, and remember, to consider them when we drive in the areas where they live. They usually don't venture too far in their buggies — to church, stores and businesses, and to visit each other. They should be able to do that without someone running over them.

The driver of the SUV that was involved in the recent accident most likely was at fault. Almost anytime you hit a vehicle from behind, it's your fault — that's been the rule of thumb for years. Was the buggy going slowly? I'm sure it was. But that's no reason to hit it. What would be different it had been a tractor or other farm equipment, or someone on a bicycle, or someone walking, or a stalled automobile, or someone changing a flat tire, or a mail carrier, or a stopped school bus loading or unloading children at a driveway. Even if it was on a hill, or at a curve in the road where visibility is limited, it's still the driver's responsibility to be in control of their vehicle, to drive at a speed that they can stop if needed. We don't own the roads; we share them. And if we all followed those simple rules, two Amish boys probably still would be alive.

Southern Indiana roads have lots of hills and curves, and we should know how to transit them safely. Just because the speed limit is 55 in most areas, there are plenty of places where 55 is too fast. As responsible drivers, we should know that and be prepared to stop on blind hills and curves.

Every farmer on a tractor, everyone who has had car trouble in a dangerous area, every kid on a bicycle, every pedestrian, every mail carrier and, yes, every Amish buggy driver has a family who cares about them. If it was someone in your family out on these crooked, hilly roads, wouldn't you expect people to respect them and help them come home safely?

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Barbara Shaw
Schuler Bauer
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