Signs alerting motorists to horse-drawn buggies in the area were present where an Amish teenager died Sunday.
Also, a “slow-moving vehicle” sign was posted on the back of the buggy, as required by state law.
Rueben Yoder, 17, was killed when a car hit the rear of the buggy in which he and his sister were riding.
The accident in Pawnee County was the first involving a motor vehicle and a buggy since the Amish moved back to Pawnee County in 2007, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Yoder and his sister Fannie Yoder, 20, were eastbound on Nebraska Highway 8-50, 3½ miles east of Pawnee City, about 9 a.m. Sunday when a car driven by Vivian Cockrell, 56, struck their buggy, said Pawnee County Sheriff Jayme Reed. It was unclear who had been driving the buggy.
When asked if Cockrell was driving on a provisional license, Reed said she wouldn't comment because no charges had been filed against Cockrell. Cockrell also declined to comment when reached by phone Monday.
The teen was pronounced dead at the scene. His sister was taken to a Lincoln hospital with head injuries. Cockrell was treated at Pawnee County Memorial Hospital and released, Reed said.
Road signs warning drivers to watch for horse-drawn buggies were erected as soon as the Nebraska Department of Roads was notified of Amish families moving into the area, said spokeswoman Mary Jo Oie.
“People already know that there are buggies in the area,” Oie said. “We just want to make sure and remind them.”
Cautionary signs on the backs of buggies also are important in making them visible to motorists, said LaMar Grafft, a rural health and safety specialist at the University of Iowa. However, some Amish people don't like the modern look the signs give their buggies and refuse to use them, Grafft said.
Those in horse-drawn carriages need to be aware of what's around them, Grafft said.
“Avoiding us folks in cars going to work and coming back home at the end of the day is certainly a suggestion,” he said.
Approximately 800 Amish people live in Nebraska, according to a study conducted by Elizabethtown (Pa.) College.
Besides those near Pawnee City, there are Amish communities in the northeast Nebraska towns of Orchard, Ewing and Verdigre.
In those communities, as in Pawnee County, signs are prominently displayed in areas with buggy traffic, residents say.
Verdigre City Clerk Denis Burman said the Amish residents come to town two or three times a month.
“They'll just drive right down the highway along the edge, but people will slow down for them,” Burman said.
Steps taken by state and local law enforcement officials in Nebraska to protect Amish drivers are similar to those taken in Iowa, which has about 7,000 Amish in communities mostly in the eastern part of the state.
Buchanan County, for example, has an Amish population of about 1,100, said Nate Clayberg, executive director of Buchanan County Economic Development.
Steve Hepke, chief deputy with the Buchanan County Sheriff's Office, said that in areas with high levels of buggy traffic, deputies patrol to prevent other vehicles from speeding.
In his 30 years with the department, he said, the buggies haven't caused many problems. There have been “a handful” of accidents, Hepke said.
Clayberg said that in the past 15 years, the number of Amish buggies has declined nationwide. The communities' residents have increasingly turned to hired drivers to take them to stores, workplaces and other Amish communities, he said.