In late 2015, BUMPS looked at an Amish buggy that was rear ended by a car driven by somebody who obviously wasn't paying enough attention to the road in an article entitled Amish Horse Buggies are Vulnerable Road Users Too. In that incident, it was rather unclear who was more at fault, but I opined that the car driver, Elizabeth Bowerman of Ubly, did not exercise proper caution when approaching the intersection when she saw the carriage was approaching it. To my knowledge, she was never ticketed.
Over in Montcalm County, another accident occurred involving a horse and buggy this morning. WOOD TV covered the incident thusly:
The hypothesis the police suggest behind this crash is that the SUV driver [identified as Tiffany Christiansen in other media] did not see the horse and buggy in front of her because of the sun cresting over the horizon and blinding her.
Most of us have probably drove during the early morning hours and have had the same problem. It's inconvenient, but you typically slow down, put on some sunglasses if you have them handy, and make sure you can make out the road in front of you. Maybe you elevate your line of vision to get above the blinding light.
The buggy travelled east on Fenwick Road (aka County Road 500) and so did the SUV. We are to presume the SUV driver never saw the buggy as she approached it at up to 55 mph. As air bags deployed [as seen in the picture and confirmed by other media], there will be crash data available for investigators, so a clearer picture of her speed several seconds before the crash, whether she applied brakes, and other data that will clear up some of the unknowns.
In reviewing Google maps, Fenwick Road features flat farmland to both sides of it and otherwise appears flat topologically. The question I cannot fathom a good answer for is how can you be driving down a flat road with a sun messing up your vision and not see a horse and buggy until you slam into the back end of it? The only answer I can reach is that Tiffany Christiansen, a young SUV driver, was effectively driving blind for several seconds before the point of impact.
Can you envision driving like that yourself? Personally, I have battled early sun over a highway horizon a few times, but I never recall a time I would have missed seeing something travelling the same direction further down the road. This would be rather irresponsible, and just overall negligent of your duty to other users of the road.
For consider the scenario where these two young kids would have been riding their bikes down the road instead of being in a buggy, or walking, or on a scooter. They probably wouldn't just be in critical condition like they are right now. This is one clear example of driving carelessly if not recklessly (the crash data may determine which), and the driver of the vehicle needs to be cited and punished accordingly.
The 10 year old passed away according to TV 9&10. The police are still investigating three days later, the driver is still without even a citation when the prima facie evidence points to her being totally at fault. If the child was inside a motor vehicle not in a buggy, or they were a police officer's child not an Amish child, the driver would have been put in custody on day one and facing serious charges for her negligence and reckless driving.
Unfortunately I have learned the police do not have to arrest people if they don't want to and the Prosecutor is not obligated to prosecute people who commit crimes. Go figure....all this time I thought that was their job!
Such a tragedy for these children and their families.
Maybe it is just the position in which many of us stand that makes these things seem so glaringly unjust....no pun intended.