February 20, 2024

Horse and buggies sit parked in Pembroke, Ky., in this file photo. Here’s what to know about the state laws on passing them while driving Kentucky roads.

Horse and buggies sit parked in Pembroke, Ky., in this file photograph. Here’s what to know about the condition legal guidelines on passing them when driving Kentucky roads.

Though it’s dwarfed by states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, the Bluegrass State is one of the most populous when it comes to Amish communities.

In 2022, according to state-by-state estimates from the Young Center at Elizabethtown College, Kentucky had almost 15,000 Amish residents.

According the Young Center’s list of where Amish communities are most common in Kentucky, the bulk seem to be concentrated in the west and northeast parts of the state, though you may find others outside of these areas.

If you need a refresher about safely passing a horse and buggy, including whether it’s even legal to do so, here’s a primer with information from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

Can you pass a horse and buggy while driving the roads of Kentucky?

According to state law, you can legally pass a horse and buggy along Kentucky’s roads.

“Motor vehicles,” as defined by state law, are not strictly powered by motors. Kentucky law defines a horse-drawn buggy as a “vehicle … propelled by muscular power,” according to Chuck Wolfe, a spokesperson for the state’s Transportation Cabinet.

Accordingly, the rules for passing conventional vehicles, such as cars and trucks, apply to horse-drawn buggies.

When one vehicle passes another going in the same direction, Kentucky Revised Statute 189.340(1) states, “Vehicles overtaking other vehicles proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of them and shall not again drive to the right until reasonably clear of those vehicles.”

It’s worth noting the law does not designate between conventional vehicles and horse-drawn vehicles, Wolfe stated in an email to the Herald-Leader.

How do you safely pass a horse and buggy on the road?

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the agency for the state which is home to the largest and oldest Amish settlements in the country, you should always make sure you have enough room to safely pass a horse-drawn buggy on the road.

Keep in mind these types of vehicles will often roll back a few feet when they stop at a traffic light or in the roadway. To avoid being surprised, drop your speed, stay alert and make sure you can see the buggy’s wheels touching the roadway, otherwise you may be too close.

A few other important tips, provided by PennDOT, include the following:

  • Lay off your horn when you’re near a horse. The animal will probably be wearing blinders so it isn’t easily spooked when objects enter its peripheral vision. That said, loud noises can startle horses, so for the sake of safety, slow down when approaching a horse and leave plenty of room when you pass.

  • If you spot a horse and buggy approaching from the opposite direction you’re traveling, dim your headlights and stay alert to any vehicles that might attempt to pass it.

  • Stay alert when you’re traveling at night. In Kentucky, don’t expect all Amish vehicles to be marked with an orange triangle indicating a slow-moving vehicle. In 2012, state law was updated so Amish drivers would no longer be jailed for refusing to display the symbols. Many declined to do so on religious grounds. As a result, the Amish may use reflective silver or white tape on their horse-drawn carriages and buggies.

Note: This article was updated at 10:24 a.m. July 19, 2023, to clarify the general location of Amish communities across Kentucky.

Do you have a question about safe driving in Kentucky for our service journalism team? We’d like to hear from you. Fill out our Know Your Kentucky form or email [email protected].

This tale was originally revealed July 18, 2023, 12:11 PM.

Associated tales from Lexington Herald Leader

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Aaron Mudd is a services journalism reporter for the Lexington Herald-Chief, Centre Everyday Situations and Belleville Information-Democrat. He is based at the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Kentucky.
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