Amish buggies have the same right to the roadway as your vehicle and even though many of the roads have wide shoulders to accomodate their slower moving vehicles, they are not required to move to the shoulder of the road, and at certain times of the year may not do so, due to soft shoulders during winter thaw or in the early spring.
Rural roads are not city streets. They are often narrower or may vary in width. You may have less room to maneuver or a loose gravel and grass berms to contend with. Don’t forget about sharp dips or unexpected turns.When driving on the backroads, keep an eye out for slow-moving Amish buggies, be patient and give them plenty of room when following or passing. Offering rude gestures will not make the horse move any faster. Normal speeds for horse drawn buggies range from 5 to 8 mph. When pulling large farm equipment or loads they may be slower.
Drivers of these vehicles may have low or blocked visibility. Most Amish will use hand signals for turns, and usually will just wait for more impatient "English" drivers. Always anticipate left hand turns. Also remember a buggy may back up a few feet when stopped, especially at intersections with inclines. Leave some distance
Only pass when legal and safe. NEVER pass a buggy near the top of a hill. Oncoming traffic may be traveling up to 50 miles-per-hour, please don’t get in their lane when they can’t see you! Slow down and savor the relaxed pace of Amish Country until you can see the road ahead of you.
Use of the car horn can spook their horses and should be avoided. Bicycles and pedestrians are also common on the roads where Amish live, so caution is necessary.
At night, keep headlights on low-beam as you would when meeting any other vehicle. Most buggies are lit with lanterns in the front, and have the reflective orange slow moving vehicle signs on the rear. The slow-moving vehicle sign means caution and slow down. Be sure to slow down and allow buggies and horse drawn equipment plenty of room when passing.
Do not feed or pet horses that are tied to a hitching rail or harnessed to a buggy.
It is very important to be considerate of the Amish and their lifestyle, however. Just like you, they do not solicit or encourage people to take their picture or knock on their door. The Amish are private people who avoid as much contact with strangers and the “outside world” as possible for important religious reasons. When visiting their community, please keep the following basic courtesy rules in mind:
If you visit Amish areas, many Amish homes will offer crafts, baked goods, groceries and other items for sale to the passerby. If you see a sign in the yard inviting you to stop, feel free to do so. If you don’t see such a sign, respect their privacy.
Most Amish have religious objections to being photographed. The Ordnung, or rules for living, do not allow photographs for two reasons, first it’s forbidden to show pride in one’s appearance and secondly the
bible forbids making “graven images.” The Amish will usually allow you to photograph their homes, farms, and buggies if you ask respectfully, but even this can be intrusive and is better avoided. If you must take pictures, consider a telephoto lens, and avoid taking any photos which include recognizable faces. A picture of the rear of an Amish buggy as it travels down the road probably won’t offend anyone. If you do feel compelled to take photos of the people, it would be most polite to do so from the back.
Don’t stare, gawk, or otherwise be disrespectful of the Amish. Out of respect for their privacy, it is best to avoid approaching the Amish unless they appear open to company. They are just like you and don’t really appreciate strangers knocking at their door. When you do have a need to approach a group of Amish, it is polite to speak to a male, if possible. If you are sincerely interested in talking to the Amish to learn more about their culture, then your best bet is to patronize an Amish-owned business and talk with the shopkeepers. Most Amish people enjoy talking with outsiders, if they don’t feel like they are regarded as animals in the zoo. Not many of the shops and attractions are open on Sundays, and Amish businesses traditionally may be closed on Tuesdays, so be sure to call ahead and plan accordingly.
For those who want to visit a farm, take one of the farm tours offered. Doing so will allow not only access to the farm, but more than likely to the family that lives there. Several of the Historical Society's Guides were raised Old Order Amish. This will provide a wonderful opportunity to ask questions and, depending on the rules of that household, to take photographs.