ADAMS/ALLEN COUNTIES, Ind. (WANE)--In Indiana, drivers must be 16 before they're eligible for a driver's license. It's the law for most moving vehicles. But a group of people has virtually unrestricted rein on the roadways.
Any driver in rural northeast Indiana has most likely encountered an Amish buggy on the roadway. There are absolutely no age restrictions on the drivers of horse-drawn buggies.
For more than a week NewsChannel 15 watched Amish buggies from Berne to Grabill on county roads and busy highways. You may be surprised who's holding the reins.
The Amish are a people deeply rooted in religion and tradition, with a lifestyle many people in northeast Indiana are used to. But between the Amish and non-Amish residents, there are two vastly different cultures with two vastly different modes of transportation.
With very little effort, NewsChannel 15 saw children 12, 11, as young as 10-years-old driving on country roads. The kids were sharing the road with cars and trucks.
Every weekday afternoon, an East Allen County school bus shows up at Westridge School. It's an Amish school located on the corner of Notestein and Ricker Roads near Harlan.
Teachers and students said it's common to see fourth and fifth graders driving buggies on the roads. Many of them drive pony buggies meant for the younger kids. Most of them say they stay away State Road 37.
The young children are driving multi-passenger vehicles while cars fly past at about 50 miles an hour. Believe it or not, it's all legal.
"There is no license requirement. No permit requirement. No age requirement for them to use those horse-drawn vehicles on the roadway," said Ron Galaviz with the Indiana State Police. "There is no law governing that at this point."
Buggies are legally required to have an orange triangle on the back and lights at night. Anyone can drive them on any road, except the interstate.
"So long as they're abiding by the rules of the road, they're not violating any state law whatsoever," Galaviz said. "It is dangerous. It is. But again we come from two different cultures."
That danger is evident outside of Berne. 14 is the oldest student at an Amish school off State Road 218. But kids don't take the bus. Many of them ride home using the 55 mile an hour highway with no passing zones and semi trucks flying past.
Many people in Adams and northeast Allen County don't see a problem with it. Those who do, like some customers in the Marathon station east of Berne, don't want to talk on camera for fear of talking bad about a people who provide a large economic impact in the area.
"Never really thought too much about young children driving the buggies because it's sort of a way of life here in the Berne area," said John Kirchhofer, president of Yager Furniture. "I don't think that anything needs to be changed because I think the majority of Amish people that drive are responsible people and as I said before, most of them are teenagers."
A third of Adams County is now Amish. Thousands more live across northeast Indiana. Though almost everyone agrees the buggies are dangerous, non-Amish people in Amish country think there's a simple solution to keep the roadways safe. They're pointing fingers at their own driving habits, not the Amish.
"This area is Amish territory," Menche said. "It always has been and it probably always will be."
Tune in Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. to see NewsChannel 15's Adam Widener bring the discovery to lawmakers. Hear what they have to say and if there are any plans to create more restrictions on the dangerous issue.
Officials have been attributing the rise in violent crime to gangs, guns, and drugs. There's about a dozen known gangs. Many members teenagers.
A family was reunited with Charlie, an American Bulldog puppy, after they say he was stolen out of their house.
Recordings released of 911 calls from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting show dispatchers urged panicked callers to take cover and asked about the welfare of the children as the boom of gunfire could be heard at times.
Tuesday's shooting has been ruled a homicide, bringing the count for 2013 to 44, matching the all-time high set in 1997.
Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz says an internal document obtained by her office shows Republican Gov. Mike Pence's new education agency is trying to strip her of power.
School districts across the state are set to receive $14 million under a settlement finalized Tuesday between the state's largest teachers union and the secretary of state's office.
State officials are seeking a federal major disaster declaration for central Indiana's Howard County because of damage during last month's wave of tornadoes and severe storms.
The gas price roller coaster shows no signs of stopping as the cost for a gallon of regular unleaded dipped to $2.97 at some Fort Wayne stations on Wednesday.
Four workers at a University of Notre Dame campus bar will soon be sharing a $10,000 tip.
The Indiana Department of Transportation opened the intersection of Union Chapel Road and Auburn Road at around noon on Wednesday.
Tuesday night, Fort Wayne City Council members voted on the initial approval to use Legacy Funds for the Embassy Theatre renovations.
A local couple received a special honor Tuesday night. Rose and Denny Beuchel are the recipients of the 2013 Neighbor of the Year award.
IPFW hosted a cupcake eating contest Tuesday as part of the university's week-long Homecoming celebration.
Eastside High School was locked down Tuesday after police discovered a man on school property with two loaded guns
A Kosciusko County teen charged with murder and ordered to spend 25 years behind bars is getting a new shot at freedom. All because of a new law passed by Indiana lawmakers earlier this year.