Lighting and Marking for Horse-Drawn Buggies, Carriages, Carts, and Wagons

Traditional use of horse-drawn buggies and wagons are a main mode of transportation where visibility is important.
Lighting and Marking for Horse-Drawn Buggies, Carriages, Carts, and Wagons - Articles


Anabaptist communities including Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities are located in several rural areas across Pennsylvania.

Horse-drawn buggies travel at a much slower speed than motor vehicles. By the time a motor vehicle operator realizes that a buggy is in front of them, the vehicle's braking time has been significantly decreased. Typically, a vehicle traveling 55 mph on a dry road surface will need approximately 400 feet to stop. However, the distance needed to stop significantly increases as the speed increases. Basically, the faster a vehicle is going the longer stopping distance it needs. Because it takes a vehicle a longer time to stop, it is important for an operator to identify a slow moving vehicle in front of them as soon as possible. As shown in the image below, if a vehicle driving 55 mph is following a buggy going 5 mph, the vehicle could impact the buggy in 6 ½ seconds.

Reports of motor vehicle and horse-drawn buggy collisions are numerous. Safety specialists are not trying to alter the Anabaptist way of life by recommending lighting and marking changes for buggies and wagons, but they are trying to reduce the number of motor vehicle and buggy collisions. This fact sheet provides useful information which may help all users of public roadways experience safer rural driving.

Lighting and Marking Recommendations

In 2012, the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) updated their recommendations for the lighting and marking of animal-drawn vehicles which includes buggies. The purpose of this standard is to the implement a unique lighting and marking pattern for animal-drawn vehicles that is acceptable to many Anabaptist cultures.

2012 ASABE's Recommendations for Lighting and Marking of Buggies and Wagons
SMV Emblem
1Retroreflective red border surrounding a fluorescent orange triangle centerMounted 2 to 6 feet from the surface of the road in the rear center.No alternative options exist for an SMV emblem.
Headlights1 (front)At least 2WhiteSymmetrically around centerline, mounted between 2.5 and 12 feet high. Visible to the front and rear.As an alternative to headlamps and tail lamps, an operator can use at least 2 double-faced lamps protruding from the sides at the widest points between 2.5 and 12 feet high. Lamps should have a clear lens to the front and a red lens to the rear.
Tail Lights1 (rear)At least 2RedSymmetrically as widely spaced as possible, between 2.5 and 12 feet highA turn signal system may be incorporated into the rear red tail lamp or the flashing amber lamps. In that case, the lamp positioned on the side of the turn should flash and the lamp on side way from the turn should go to steady burn. An L.E.D. (light emitting diode) light may be mounted on the top center.
Hazard Flasher1 (Front & Rear)At least 2AmberSymmetrically, visible to both front and rear and between 2.5 and 12 feet high.No other options exist for amber flashing lights.
Retroreflective material (rear)2 inch x 9 inch stripsAlternating red retroreflective and orange-red retroreflective materialOutlining the sides and top of the rear of the vehicle.Where local cultures use white retroreflective material, it should be at least 1 inch wide. If using this option, two red reflex reflectors* or red retroreflective material should be mounted symmetrically around the centerline, as widely spaced as possible.
Retroreflective material (front)At least two 2 inch x 9 inch stripsYellow retroreflective materialSymmetrically around the centerline and as widely spaced as possible on the front of the machine.Where local cultures use white retroreflective material, it should be at least 1 inch wide.
Retroreflective material (side)At least two 2 inch x 9 inch stripsYellow retroreflective materialSymmetrically along each side of the vehicle frame. If vehicle has a tongue or visible shaft on the outside of the animal, place at least one additional yellow strip on the outside of the tongue or shaft.Where local culture uses white retroreflective material, it should be at least 1 inch wide. Yellow or white retroreflective material may be attached to the harness, to the animal's legs or both.
Orange flag or aerial device on a pony cart1 - 2Orange flag or aerial device mounted on left side (as viewed from the rear) of a pony cart.The bottom edge of the flag should be between 4 - 7 feet above the road surface.Additional retroreflective tape can be wrapped around the flag shaft to enhance visibility.

1 Animal-drawn vehicles with a lighting system should be equipped with a battery operated or generator powered system. Batteries may be typical storage, deep cycle, or gel cell conforming to SAE J537.

*Red add-on reflectors or retroreflective tape.

Slow Moving Vehicle Emblem

A SMV emblem is a highly reflective and retroreflective sign required on the back of any vehicle traveling under 25 mph. The SMV is an equilateral triangle with a minimum height of 14 inches and constructed of reflective and retroflective materials. The inside part of the triangle is a fluorescent orange material that provides visibility during daytime hours and outlined by red retroreflective material that enhances nighttime visibility. The emblem should be visible from at least 1,000 feet away either day or night. The SMV is designed to increase the visibility of a horse-drawn buggy or wagon through the use of conspicuity material which makes the equipment stand out, or be more conspicuous.

The orange fluorescent center portion of the SMV emblem is the most vulnerable to light and moisture so it can fade and turn color over time. Remove dirt and debris from the SMV emblem and replace it if fading occurs. This maintains the best reflective properties. The retroreflective material in the outer border of the SMV emblem reflects the headlights of vehicles approaching from the rear at night. Retroreflective material holds up longer than fluorescent material. Newer SMVs emblems have much better reflective properties and can be detected as far as a mile away.

Pennsylvania State Law

Pennsylvania state law has the following requirements for all horse drawn buggies:

  • 4-way flashers - Flashing amber light should be visible from the front of the buggy and a red flashing light from the rear of the buggy. The red flashing lights should be a minimum of four inches in diameter with three square inches of surface.
  • SMV Emblem - The SMV emblem is required by Pennsylvania state law for any vehicle traveling less than 25 MPH. The SMV should be displayed flat against the back of the buggy from 2-6 feet off the ground. A standard SMV is a 12 inch orange triangle with a 1 ¾ inch red border that covers 72 square inches.
  • Headlights - Two white headlights, tilted slightly downward, in the front of the buggy within 3 inches of the buggy's edge. Headlights should be turned on as soon as it begins to get dark. An operator can be fined if they fail to use their headlights when required by state law.

In addition to the required flashers and SMV emblem, additional recommendations in the Pennsylvania Horse and Buggy Driver's Manual to improve visibility include the following:

  • Warning lights - Place two amber flashing warning lights (4 inches in diameter) on each side of the buggy no higher than four feet from the ground.
  • Reflective tape - Reflective tape should be placed on the front of the buggy to improve visibility. White reflective tape provides the best visibility (500 feet). Since the red/silver mix tape is approved for trucks and trailers, it should not be used for buggies. Reflective tape can increase visibility when used on the side of buggies and horse for drivers viewing a buggy from the side.
  • Rearview mirror - A buggy should be equipped with a rearview mirror to assist the buggy driver in seeing traffic behind them.

Buggy and Wagon Operators

Alerting motorists to the presence of your buggy or wagon on the roadway is vital to collision and injury prevention. The quicker a motor vehicle can see that you are a slow moving vehicle, the quicker the motorist is able to reduce their speed and maintain a proper distance. Within the rules of the local Anabaptist order or sect, maintain the approved lighting and marking recommendations including a SMV emblem, lights, and reflective tape. Obey all rules of the road and be aware of the more dangerous driving locations in the area. Remind young buggy or wagon drivers of the "rules of the road" because many buggy and wagon incidents involve young operators.

Motor Vehicle Drivers

Motor vehicle operators must realize that braking time decreases quickly as you approach a horse-drawn buggy or wagon. Motorist should abide by posted speed limits and stay alert to their surroundings. When following a buggy, leave plenty of room between you and the buggy until a safe passing zone is reached. By keeping a safe distant, it will allow additional room to pass the buggy or wagon and will also provide space in the event that the buggy stops, turns suddenly, or a frightened horse causes the buggy to veer out of control. When passing a buggy or wagon, do not do anything (e.g., blowing your horn) that may startle the horse.


  • ANSI/ASAE, EP576.2 October 2012, Lighting and Marking of Animal-Drawn Equipment, ASAE Standards, American Society of Agricultural Engineers (ASAE), St. Joseph, MI 49085.
  • Bean, T., Yarosh, A., Lawrence, T., & James, R. (2008) This sign means caution: Driving safely in Amish country. The Ohio State University Extension.
  • Horse and Buggy Driver's Manual. (2008). Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
  • Jepsen, S. & Calip, T. (2009) Lighting and Marking Recommendations for Buggies and Wagons.

Prepared by: Dennis J. Murphy, Distinguished Professor and Linda M. Fetzer, Extension Associate