Some Amish find safety triangles too blingy

Buggy
Reflective orange safety triangles are, by their nature, flashy.

The Amish, as a general rule, don't do flashy.

Hence the dilemma in western Kentucky, where members of an ultraconservative Amish branch called Swartzentruber are rejecting the state-mandated use of the safety triangles on their horse-drawn buggies.

In recent months, as the Associated Press has chronicled, a number of Swartzentruber men in the state have been jailed for refusing to pay fines levied against them when they were stopped for driving without the triangles.

The members of the Swartzentruber group eschew most modern conveniences, including electricity and plumbing. The safety triangles, they say, lend a little too much worldly razzle-dazzle to their rides, and thus violate their vow to adhere to a radically simple life.

They also believe that the triangles are unnecessary because traffic safety and its attendant vicissitudes are ultimately managed by God.

The Kentucky State Police -- without challenging the role of divine providence in matters of  transportation -- have argued that the triangles are a sensible way to allow motorists to see the dark, slow-going buggies. The AP's Dylan Lovan reports that 2011 saw "several" fatal collisions with Amish buggies around the country.

In Kentucky, a proposed workaround is being cooked up: Johnny Bell, a Democratic state representative, recently introduced a bill that would allow drivers of slow-moving vehicles to use reflective tape instead of the triangles, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports. Lawmakers heard testimony on the matter Tuesday.

One ACLU official told lawmakers that the Amish would accept the tape as a workable compromise.

The Kentucky Supreme Court, meanwhile, has agreed to hear the appeal of the jailed men.

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-- Richard Fausset in Atlanta

Photo: An Amish horse and buggy clippity-clops along through the snow-covered farmland of Middlefield, Ohio. The photo is from 1996, but some things are timeless.  Credit: Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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