Community meeting focuses on safety
YATES COUNTY–After a year of high-profile horse and buggy accidents in Yates County, Sheriff Ron Spike hosted a slow moving vehicle (SMV) workshop at the Benton Fire House on Tuesday, February 15. Spike, who spoke for nearly 90 minutes, reiterated to the horse-drawn buggy riders in attendance that visibility is key.
“85% of these crashes happen through no fault of the slow moving vehicle occupants as they happen when a motor vehicle hits the buggy from the rear at high speeds… so we wanted to talk about raising awareness to these types of accidents that are happening here and in several other states,” Spike said.
Careful about calling incidents crashes as opposed to crashes because a crash denotes a lack of responsibility, Spike said he’s been trying for years to get the state to include part of the slow-moving driving manual such as agricultural equipment and horses and buggies.
“I tried to get the DMV to include a section,” Spike said.
Part of what makes these types of collisions so devastating is that motorists often don’t know what’s going on until it’s too late. And the 3,000+ pound car over a buggy that’s been made as light as possible to make it easier to pull by a horse, often leaves the driver of the car unscathed and the occupants of the car ejected from their driving area. and in critical condition or worse.
“The main focus though was closing the crash time as it only takes a few seconds until you’re on it…motorists can get distracted or speed up unreasonably so I had several slides ( how to make buggies more visible),” Spike said.
Most horse and buggy drivers have their vehicles all black with an SMV triangle affixed, a law in New York. The addition of battery-powered LED lights was a recent addition to help increase visibility.
“It’s not as noticeable as the other colors and the reflective triangle as a slow moving vehicle emblem (helps but not enough),” Spike added. “I’m a big fan of the amber strobe lights that they’re starting to put on strollers now because they have an oscillating motion of light that catches people’s attention.”
Hosted by Henry Martin, a safety leader in the Mennonite community, another big part of the seminar emphasized the importance of contacting 911 immediately in the event of an accident. A quick response is essential for any accident, but especially for those involving horses and buggies, as they require a greater response from first responders due to the need for veterinarians and more.
“We just have to be aware that these are our community’s vehicle types,” Spike said.
Beyond the workshop, Spike said the sheriff’s department is working hard to encourage local municipalities to increase signage on roads often traveled by horses and buggies to warn motorists of their presence.
“We try to educate our young riders,” Spike said. “We have a program that our school resource officer uses at Dundee Secondary School.”
Spike also took a moment to thank the residents of Yates who themselves put up signs reminding motorists to share the road.
Along with Spike, Soil and Water Conservation District Senior Technician Tom Eskildsen spoke to farmers during the evening about the dangers associated with manure and the resulting chemical gas.