ODELL, Ind. – Few laws in Indiana govern the operation of farm machinery on roads, such as the combine that ran into a van and killed three people this week, police said.
Anyone can drive tractors or other large agriculture equipment on state roads, state police Sgt. Kim Riley said. The implements cannot travel on interstates and must display a slow-moving vehicle emblem on the rear, he said.
Drivers do not need training to obtain a special license or have an oversize vehicle permit, Riley told the Journal & Courier for a story Friday.
“There is no law stopping them from impeding traffic,” he said.
The Tippecanoe County Sheriff’s Department said the driver of the combine didn’t make a complete stop at a rural intersection Wednesday evening about 10 miles southwest of Lafayette.
As the machine entered the roadway, a minivan driven by Daniel Fox, 62, of Attica, went under the spiked harvesting apparatus on the front of the combine, known as a cornhead, flattening the minivan. Fox was killed along with his wife Stacy Fox, 40, and their daughter, Demara Fox, 15.
Zach Cooper, pastor at Journey Church who had the Attica High School student in his youth group, said the Foxes’ two other daughters – 17-year-old Demetria and 13-year-old Dakota Fox – were awake and communicative Thursday at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Family friend Margaret Carpenter, 18, of Attica, was also in the crash. She underwent reconstructive surgery at a Lafayette hospital on her arm and hand, which were crushed, Cooper said.
The Associated Press left a message Friday for Tippecanoe County Sheriff Tracy Brown about whether a decision had been made to seek charges against the combine driver.
Bill Field, a Purdue Extension farm safety specialist, said such crashes involving farm equipment are rare, but drivers should be watchful because farmers are harvesting their crops.
The 2011 Indiana Farm Fatality survey found 16 farm-related fatalities, of which three happened on the highway. Field said he would consider Wednesday’s crash a farm-related accident.
State records show one other fatality involving a farm equipment accident this year, with five deaths in such crashes last year. Fewer than 0.2 percent of all 2011 road accident in Indiana involved farm equipment, The Indianapolis Star reported.
“This just illustrates the importance of paying constant attention to what you’re doing as a driver, regardless of the type of vehicle,” state police Capt. David Bursten said.