To the Editor:
Last month the Wood County Board met and one of the agenda items pertained to establishing regulations for the use of animal-drawn vehicles so as to protect public safety. Since that meeting I’ve had numerous constituents ask me questions regarding this issue. These inquiries prompted me to explain the history and facts leading to ordinance# 17-12-1 and resolution# 17-12-2.
The animal-drawn vehicle safety issue started about five years ago. Myself and others started getting calls about near accidents with Amish buggies, children playing on the roads, as well as other issues. At that time we had a meeting with one of the Amish bishops to discuss our concerns. This meeting consisted of the Sheriff, Undersheriff, Emergency Management, and the chairman’s or a representative of the towns of Hansen, Sigel, Sherry, and myself. Our biggest concern was the visibility of buggies and complying with traffic safety laws. Later there was a meeting at the Town of Hansen chairman’s farm with a group of Amish. This meeting included representatives from the villages of Vesper and Arpin, townships of Arpin, Hansen, Sigel, and Sherry, and also Wood County. As a result of these meetings, the county installed signs warning the public about Amish traffic and their schools.
Because we continued to get calls of concern regarding this safety issue from county residents, I was asked by the County Board Chairman to bring an ordinance and resolution to the Wood County board. These regulations were drafted by the Wood County attorney, myself, and other county board members with ideas coming from the state of Wisconsin statutes, Farm Bureau, a Wood County pamphlet, and buggy manuals from three counties and the University of Ohio. There was nothing in the proposed legislation that isn’t required of any other vehicle operator in the state.
The ordinance and resolution were endorsed and signed by three county committees – Public Safety (5-yes 0-no), Judicial and Legislative (5-yes 0-no), and Highway and Recreation (4-yes 1-no). The total vote in favor of this proposal was 14-1. It’s hard to believe that not one of the thirteen committee members who initially voted yes to this proposal didn’t second the motion so it could be voted on or amended. We’re talking about saving lives. It’s been said that if we had passed this ordinance the Amish would leave. Think about it. If we made it safer for them maybe more would come.
In Wood County alone there have been numerous accidents, several of which yielded no injuries. However, these collisions have also resulted in death, killing four Amish. How many more people must die before we do something to improve the safety of all county residents, especially the Amish. In the case of an accident with a 5,000 pound automobile or an 80,000 pound loaded truck, an animal-drawn vehicle’s chances are little to none. The Sheriff’s Department, Emergency Management, and Health Department continue to meet with the Amish community about this safety issue. Let’s all work together to keep our county roadways safe.
Wood County Board Member – District 9