More horse-drawn carriages feeling effects of distracted motorists

Indiana has seen three accidents this year where horse-drawn carriages were hit by distracted motorists.

It doesn't have to be Christmas time to enjoy a horse-drawn cab ride through a bustling city or countryside acres, as the clip-clopping of equines' hooves is like music to the ears. But in Indiana, the sweet sounds have come to a crashing halt – quite literally – as riders have been rudely interrupted by distracted driving motorists.

In less than a week in Indiana's Elkhart County, two accidents occurred involving multitasking drivers running into buggies pulled by horses, both happening on the same road inside of an Amish community, The Associated Press reported.

Though neither of the incidents were serious in nature, horse-drawn buggies are increasingly involved in accidents where distracted drivers are running into them, usually from behind.

"Lots of accidents we see involve horse-drawn equipment that came out of nowhere, like around corners or over the crest of a hill," Barbara Zortman, Director for the Pennsylvania-based Center for Traffic Safety, told the AP.

According to an official tally from the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department, nearly two dozen accidents involving vehicles pulled by farm animals occurred last year in the county, the AP reported from numbers originally published by the Elkhart Truth.

Indiana has third-largest Amish population

Pennsylvania has the second-largest Amish community in the country, predominantly in Lancaster County. In the U.S. overall, there are roughly 251,000 Amish, based on figures from Ohio State University. Indiana's Amish population is the third biggest in the country and Ohio has the most.

The Amish people, who largely live lifestyles almost entirely void of modern-day technology, is the latest population affected by distracted smartphone users. More generally, pedestrians have been on the receiving and giving end of accidents caused by inattention. Since 2009, for instance, serious injuries among pedestrians have risen 15%, according to estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Experts attribute the rise to increased mobile handheld device usage.

Will Indiana build more 'buggy lanes'?

Recognizing the troublesome trend, local and state legislatures are building more walkways to make traveling conditions safer and more spacious. Similar efforts are being made in Amish communities, including Elkhart, as so-called "buggy lanes" enable horse-drawn carriages to operate in areas of the road separate from where motor vehicles reside, AP reported. The Indiana Department of Transportation has no intention of building additional buggy lanes just yet, though this could change given that three incidents involving driver distraction have happened in 2016 so far.

Another distraction that's sweeping the nation is the Pokemon GO phenomenon, where smartphone users take to the streets in order to find characters and collect points. These virtual reality characters can be found in public areas. Due to players' inattention, these treasure hunts have led to a number of accidents all over the country, some of them quite serious.

Perhaps in an attempt to get players focused on more important things, an animal shelter in Muncie, Indiana recently launched a volunteer program called "Pokemon Dogs" according to ABC News. Phil Peckinpaugh, Muncie Indiana Shelter Director, said that the volunteer program has been a hit with the public. Since mid-July, the advertisement he posted via social media has been shared over 15,000 times.

Peckinpaugh told ABC News that the ultimate goal of the program – besides keeping adopted dogs in good condition through regular exercise – is volunteers will decide to adopt, ideally the ones that they interact with through the Pokemon Dogs campaign.