Ask a trooper: Do animal-drawn vehicles need to be marked?
Question: I met what I believe was an Amish horse and buggy traveling down the highway in the dark the other night. It did not appear to have any lights or markings. Is this safe or legal?
Answer: Minnesota State Statute 169.522 requires an illuminated or fluorescent red-orange triangle to be displayed on all animal-drawn vehicles operated on designated roadways.
This statute allows a person who objects to the display of the red-orange triangle to apply for a permit for an alternate emblem. However he or she is still required to display the red-orange triangle between sunset and sunrise.
Several members of Minnesota’s Amish community object to these requirements based on their religious beliefs. Instead of the emblems, many use the white reflective tape and lighted red lanterns.
Members of the Amish community challenged citations issued as a result of the noncompliance based of the case State v. Hershberger, 462 N.W.2d393 (Minn. 1990), which was eventually heard by the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Court ruled in favor of the Amish appellants.
Although some additional administrative rules (Chapter 7440) were published in 2001 outlining the alternate emblem permit process, nothing in Minnesota State Statute 169.522 has materially changed since this ruling, nor has the ruling been reversed or otherwise overturned.
Amish buggies are considered in compliance with Statute 169.522 provided they display white reflective tape during daylight hours in conjunction with a lighted red lantern from sunset to sunrise or when visibility is impaired (snow, rain, smoke, fog, etc.).
To answer your question as to what you saw, not safe and not legal.
If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trooper Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205.
You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.