OSWEGO — County public safety officials are rolling out a public outreach initiative prompting safety on the roads among motorists and horse-drawn commuters, following a collision that resulted in the death of an Amish woman in mid-October.
The increase in Amish buggy traffic cohabitation public roadways with motorists introduces new safety hazards for both commuting populations because of the vastly different modes of transport, Oswego County Fire Coordinator Donald Forbes told county legislators at last week's public safety committee meeting.
"We're hearing this from all the fire departments: we have a huge problem," said Forbes, soliciting the interdepartmental support of Oswego County's top public safety leaders.
On Oct. 17 at 4:30 p.m., William E. Twombly, 40, of Carthage, was driving north on state Route 3 in the town of Mexico in a 2018 Ford Fusion, reportedly failing to observe a horse-drawn Amish buggy that was traveling in the same direction, according to local authorities. The New York State Police reported Twombly struck the road wagon from behind, causing both occupants, Anna and Andy Miller, both 44 and from Pulaski, to be ejected.
Andy Miller was transported to Upstate University Hospital sustaining back injuries; Anna Miller, however, succumbed to a severe head injury after her transportation. At the owner's request, the severely injured horses were euthanized.
Forbes said another accident occurred in November in Pualski, though "fortunately nobody was seriously injured," he said.
The county should address this with a public awareness campaign, Forbes said, and by following the lead from counties that responded to similar challenges with laws requiring reflective, or even illuminated, markers on wagons. Ohio motorists are typically reminded that they share the road with horse-drawn buggies, for example.
"They're all over, and they're getting more and more," Forbes said before adding the Millers were visiting a potential agricultural buy in the town of Mexico before the incident. "We've had some injuries from passengers but this last one was the first fatality. I think we as a county need to look at a law that allows them to have better reflective devices, similar to slow moving farm vehicles."
Oswego County Traffic Safety Board Chairman Robert Lighthall said motorists traveling at high sped have some idea of their closing proximity to a stationary object on the road. But if the same object is moving, "your mind does not have concept of your closing speed," he said.
Light hall said the county Traffic Safety Board is organizing a training seminar to be taught in Pulaski by Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, who Lighthall called a regional expert in wagon-chicle traffic safety.
"You need the public there," Lighthall said. "We need both aspects to understand their concerns."
Another safety hazard connected to horse-drawn travel that Forbes seeks to address with county officials is the case horses leave behind when traveling on the road.
"That's a big problem," he said. "If you talk to motorcycle riders, that's dangerous."