Lawmakers to address Amish road safety

Now Media Group


Amish safety on Wisconsin roads needs to be addressed in the wake of recent fatal buggy crashes, according to a state lawmaker.

Republican State Rep. Bob Kulp of Stratford hopes the Amish communities in Wisconsin would be open to a discussion about making horse-drawn vehicles more visible. Many Amish don't realize how difficult it can be for a driver to see a buggy when their vehicle is traveling 55 or 60 mph down a highway, he told Daily Tribune Media.

Kulp, whose mother and father were born into Amish families, spoke with Amish leaders shortly after a drunk driver crashed into a horse-drawn wagon, killing Christian Kempf and his 10-year-old son, Melvin, on Nov. 20 in Wood County.

County officials have spoken with representatives from Marshfield Clinic, Farm Machinery and Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital in an effort to seek money to pay for battery-powered lights to install on the buggies and wagons, said Wood County emergency management director Steve Kreuser. The officials also met with about 30 members of the Amish community last week to discuss road safety.

Sheriff's deputies are able to issue citations to people driving horse-drawn vehicles on roads without meeting the state requirements for two red lights on the back and one on the front, but Wood County Sheriff Thomas Reichert said he would rather educate Amish offenders and encourage them to comply than issue tickets.

Republican State Rep. Scott Krug of Rome doesn't believe the state needs new laws regarding vulnerable users on roads, including pedestrians, bicyclists and people with horse-drawn vehicles, but he said he has supported such legislation in the past and would again consider a change.

Legislators plan to study the situation and develop a single set of rules for the entire state.

Republican Rep. John Spiros of Marshfield has been contacting officials in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana to learn how those states with large Amish populations deal with the issue of horse-drawn vehicles on roads.

Spiros wants to set up a meeting between state lawmakers and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to further evaluate what rules exist in other states, how those rules have worked and what would be worth trying to improve road safety in Wisconsin.

Kulp said he is among the lawmakers on board with trying to find ideas to address the fatal buggy crashes.