Lawmakers and Amish leaders discuss safety after deadly crash

 MIDDLEBURY, Ind. – One week after a tragic collision between a car and two pony carts killed 10-year-old Jeneva Miller and 9-year-old Joyce Miller, state lawmakers are in Middlebury to discuss safety with Amish leaders.

“Between all of us we’re hopeful that we can come up with some common sense dialogue to start the process to figure out what we need to do to keep our children safe,” explained State Senator Carlin Yoder (R-12th District).

Yoder and State Representative Wes Culver (R - 49th District) organized Monday’s meeting with Amish community leaders.  The Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police also sent representatives.  Yoder said he received numerous calls from the public to do something about safety.  He said he’s hesitant to put forward new legislation regarding the issue.

“I’m more concerned that the Amish really work at educating themselves and the families that have kids on the road to figure out what’s safe and what isn’t,” Yoder explained.  “I think that’s where we start.”

Yoder’s concerns are shared by many citizens in Middlebury.

"I would like to see them have some kind of course that they have to go before they can be a licensed buggy driver, just like our teenagers have to be licensed car drivers," explained Linda Pieri, who owns a shop in downtown Middlebury.

Driving down the streets around or behind a buggy is normal for residents of Middlebury, like Pieri.

“You just have to watch out, you never know when they’re going to dart out of their drives or if you’re behind them when they’re going to suddenly turn left in front of you,” described Pieri.

The fact that Middlebury residents, who are used to buggies, can have trouble navigating the roads is another concern for Senator Yoder.

“The problem is we’re a high tourist area and a lot of people that drive our roads aren’t familiar with the Amish,” explained Yoder.  “That’s concerning.”

But, Yoder said the Amish leaders he’s spoken to know and share the public’s concern.

"They do recognize there's a problem there and the bishops I talked to did mention their concern that 10-year-olds are out on the road,” he explained.  “They did not seem to think that was a good idea."

In a statement after the meeting Yoder said the community resolved to take action to further safety education on road safety for the Amish community.  Members at the meeting pledged cooperation with law enforcement to put a program in place.

"They are even open to legislation if that's what it takes, that certainly wouldn't be their first preference and it's not my first preference,” he explained.  “In the end, we need to have a common sense solution that works for everybody and keeps our kids safe."

Linda Pieri’s family is close to the Miller family, 9-year-old Joyce Miller was named after her mother.  She said the family is still struggling to cope with the loss, but have already taken steps to make their home safer by clearing obstructions that may have contributed to the accident.

"Things that were impeding the view were torn away…cornfields and bushes…because it was kind of a hidden drive,” Pieri explained.

Elkhart County crash investigators have yet to determine the cause of the accident.

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