Bill would help Amish who reject reflective triangles on buggies

reflective tape offered as triangle substitute

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJanuary 25, 2012 

FRANKFORT — Kentucky lawmakers heard testimony Tuesday about a bill that would help Amish people who have resisted using reflective safety triangles on their slow-moving buggies for religious reasons.

The House Transportation Committee heard from supporters of House Bill 133, which would allow the Amish or anyone else to use reflective tape instead of an orange safety triangle on their slow-moving vehicles.

The sponsor of HB 133, Democratic Rep. Johnny Bell of Glasgow, said his measure "gives people an alternative."

He said the bill is designed to benefit everyone, but he also said he has many Amish in his agricultural community.

"I've always found them to be people who want to work and get along," he said.

The refusal of some Amish to use safety triangles on their buggies has led to court action in Western Kentucky.

District Judge Deborah Crooks in Graves County recently issued jail sentences of three to 13 days for nine Amish men who refused to pay traffic fines for not using the emblems. The Kentucky Supreme Court is to hear their appeal.

The men belong to a nationwide conservative sect called Swartzentruber that rejects on religious grounds the use of brightly colored triangles on their horse-drawn buggies. Kentucky requires the use of the triangles on slow-moving vehicles.

The Amish sect rejects the man-made traffic symbols because, among other reasons, they believe that even their safety on the roads is directed by God.

Kate Miller, program associate for the ACLU, said the Amish would be willing to accept a requirement of reflective tape for their buggies.

House Transportation Chairman Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, said he likes the option in Bell's bill.

"My major objective is to be sure we can see the vehicles," Collins said. "Reflective tape may save a bad accident. I think this is a win for both sides."

Collins said his committee did not act on the bill Tuesday because it wants to make sure reflective tape "will do the job."

The committee did approve HB 165, which requires drivers of vehicles made before 2000 to turn on their headlights during any precipitation in which windshield wipers are needed.

The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Rep. Mike Denham of Maysville, said a violator could be fined between $20 to $100 in district court but would not have to pay any court costs.

Denham said the Mason County Farm Bureau requested the bill.

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