CANTON A safety initiative is being launched to combat a rise in motor vehicle accidents with Amish buggies by educating new drivers and erecting up to 100 warning signs along St. Lawrence County roads.
The effort is a collaboration among Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie , R-Heuvelton; the St. Lawrence County Sheriffs Department; the county Traffic Safety Program; and the county clerk. It was announced Thursday at a press conference at SUNY Canton.
This campaign, that is a joint effort from all of us, is about saving lives, Mrs. Ritchie said.
The number of Amish living in New York has tripled since 2001, and car-buggy crashes have become a frequent problem in St. Lawrence County.
This initiative was prompted by the death of a 9-month-old Amish girl after a crash in November.
That accident occurred in Lewis County, although St. Lawrence County also has seen numerous crashes resulting in injuries and property damage.
We believed that something needed to be done, Ms. Ritchie said.
There are two main parts to the program. A state grant will provide the funds to erect up to 100 reflective warning signs alongside county roads. The area has very few such warning signs now, despite the large Amish population, Ms. Ritchie said.
The second is a brochure offering information about the Amish and guidelines for motorists on how to safely navigate around the slow-moving horse-drawn buggies.
These steps are not targeted at longtime local residents, Ms. Ritchie said, but rather at the countys large student population, new drivers, and visitors.
Many, like the new students at SUNY Canton ... have probably never seen an Amish buggy before, she said.
The fliers were distributed to all four colleges. Every incoming freshman at SUNY Canton received a copy, according to Alan P. Mulkin, deputy chief of campus police.
Its important to educate our students about the Amish community and make them aware of the hazards that can present, he said.
The fliers will also be made available in various county buildings and chambers of commerce.