Yes, Amish will ride in cars. So, what’s the difference between riding in a vehicle and owning one?
Breaking down the community
For the Amish, being a part of the community is extremely important. They live among their family and friends, depend on one another and keep social boundaries and traditions for the greater good of everyone. Their values are quite different from that of the modern world – progress and change are pondered and weighed seriously. Sacrificing the individual’s wants and accountability to one another are main parts of Amish culture.
Owning and operating a car is not particularly modern to most of us, but the Amish have decided that having speedy convenient transportation at their fingertips will lead to spending more time away from family, home and the community. Owning a nicer car than your neighbor may promote pride as well as a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality. Conforming to a modest black buggy and slow moving horse is a sign of commitment to the church and community.
The same theory goes for using horses for farm work as opposed to a tractor. Slow work and hard work are not necessarily bad. Labor-saving devices and engines may do the work more quickly, but the teamwork of putting up hay or corn is lost. That cooperation strengthens relationships and traditions.
When to call the Driver
When is it appropriate for an Amish person to ride in a car? As the Amish communities have grown larger in scale and spread out across more territory, it becomes a long round trip to visit family or run errands. High volume traffic on our roads can be just plain scary in an unprotected wooden buggy. In buggy vs. vehicle accidents, the buggy and its occupants always come out on the worst end.
Day-to-day errands such as grocery shopping and doctor’s appointments must be run, so it’s sometimes necessary to call an Amish “taxi” driver for a ride. Travel for medical emergencies and visiting hospital patients is always allowed. Drivers can be anyone – a neighbor, friend or a for-hire professional service. They use any kind of vehicle, from a four passenger car up to a 15-passenger van.
Since many Amish no longer work on farms, local businesses will buy a van or truck and employ a driver just to pick up or drop off Amish workers. Construction or mason crews often travel hours away to work on homes and building projects scheduled through contractors.
Here’s where the issue of hiring a driver becomes a little more murky. Depending on the type of Amish church, entertainment isn’t encouraged, so a van trip to the hunting show might be off-limits for some churches. But generally, Amish are allowed to hire a driver to transport them for hunting or fishing trips out west or in Canada, weddings, shopping trips or sometimes out to eat.
Rides are also accepted for service trips, where many Amish volunteer to help people clean up after natural disasters, such as tornadoes, fires, floods and hurricanes.
“Driving the Amish” Book
In 1997, retired journalist and Amish taxi driver Jim Butterfield published a book about his experiences driving to places beyond easy reach of traditional horse-drawn buggies and wagons. This charming account of a unique personalities and old-timey events is still available at amazon.com.