A horse-drawn buggy collision in central Michigan has killed three and injured several others. The Detroit Free Press reported that at 8:34 AM on Sunday, October 29, a pickup truck rear-ended a horse-drawn buggy that was carrying a family of nine in Montcalm County, Michigan. The buggy was traveling east on Condensery Road near Wood Road in Bushnell Township, Michigan when it was struck but a Dodge truck. The truck was driven by Brandon King, 29, from Sheridan, Michigan.
Three children traveling in the buggy suffered fatal injuries. A 7 year-old girl, a 9 year-old girl, and an 11 year-old boy were all pronounced dead at the scene. An 18 month-old girl, a 2 year-old boy, 3 year-old boy, and 8 year-old boy were all transported to Helen Devos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The 18 month-old has since be released. The children’s parents, Paul Martin and Judith Martin were also injured, and were taken to Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan and Spectrum Health Butterworth in Grand Rapids, Michigan, respectively. King was a wearing a seatbelt at the time of the truck accident and was not injured. Investigators have ruled out alcohol as a factor.
Under Michigan law, horse-drawn buggies are street legal and are considered traffic. However, there are no types of licensing laws when it comes to horse-drawn buggies, so they can be driven by a person of any age. Michigan legislature states that “a person riding an animal or driving an animal-drawn vehicle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all the duties, criminal penalties, and civil sanctions applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
According to Mlive, horse-drawn buggies are considered “implements of husbandry”, which is any sort of vehicle use for farming or agricultural purposes. As such, they are required to display an orange safety triangle on the rear of the buggy, which indicates that they are a slow moving vehicle. They also must not obstruct traffic, meaning that if a large line of vehicles forms behind the buggy, it must pull of to the side of the road and let the vehicles pass. It is not until the person dismounts the buggy that they are considered a pedestrian, and the horse is considered an animal.
While seeing a horse-drawn buggy, or any other sort of “implements of husbandry” may be frustrating due to their slow moving speed, it’s crucial that automobile drivers remember that there are people riding in them, and that those people are at a bigger risk for injury should a motor vehicle collision happen as compared to the driver who is protected inside their metal vehicle. Passing and overtaking a buggy may seem like a quick fix drivers to get back up to the speed they want to be going, but buggies don’t operate the same way vehicles do, and it’s impossible to predict how a horse will react when a car goes flying by. No one likes to have to slow down, but under Michigan law, horse-drawn buggies have as much of a right to be on the road as any driver.
Driving on rural roads can present obstacles many drivers aren't used to, such as slow moving farm vehicles, sharp curves, and unpaved roads. It's important that drivers are extra cautious when traveling in a rural area, especially if it's something they don't do often. If you have been involved in an automobile accident, including a car crash in a rural area, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free legal consultation.