ASHLAND, Ohio (WJW) – Many members of Northeast Ohio’s Amish community are not happy about the enforcement of a new state law that forces them to make their buggies more visible with flashing yellow lights.
Members of the community filed into Ashland Municipal Court on Tuesday morning in a silent protest of the new law.
While the measure is designed to reduce the number of buggy crashes across the state, many Amish elders and church leaders believe the flashing light law violates their traditional beliefs in a simple life.
A number of Amish buggy drivers were cited by deputies with the Ashland County Sheriff’s Office and troopers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for violating the new law, which went into effect in September, but was not actively enforced until last week.
One by one, each of the violators entered a plea of no contest this morning.
None of the defendants spoke about their opposition to the new flashing light law on religious grounds.
However, Judge John Good read a letter sent to the court by the violators.
A portion of the letter read, “a similar law had been in effect in the early 1960’s, which our fore fathers deemed too worldly. We are inclined to still believe so. We had an unanimous vote throughout all of our affiliated churches to not have any blinking lights whatsoever.”
The maximum fine for violating the flashing light law is $150, but Judge Good imposed a fine of $50 for the first-time violators.
The judge told one of the defendants, “obviously if you feel this statute is unconstitutional, you have every right just like every other American to appeal it.”
The judge directed each of the violators to pay their fine in the Ashland Clerk of Courts Office after their court appearance.
However, court records indicate that each of the Amish buggy drivers declined to pay the fine on Tuesday.
Each of the defendants must now return to court for a hearing to determine their ability and willingness to pay the fines.
Meanwhile, authorities will continue a campaign to convince the Amish that the flashing light law is designed to protect them and their loved ones.
“The tradition can be changed and ultimately this is about their safety as well as the people that are on our roadways, so the enforcement component will hopefully bring compliance into the law for everybody’s safety,” said Lt. Brad Bishop, who is the commander of OSP’s Ashland Post.
Judge Good told the violators that if they do not pay the fines, they will be in direct conflict with the court, and he does not want that to happen.