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Can a smartphone app prevent tractor rollovers?

From dairy to corn production, farming is an incredibly vital component of our economy here in the state of Illinois. What most of us might not realize, however, is that farming can actually prove to be a somewhat dangerous profession, with farmers routinely at risk of suffering serious or even fatal work injuries.

To illustrate, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has compiled the following eye-opening statistics about tractor rollovers:

  • Tractor rollovers are leading the leading cause of death among farmers and kill an average of 250 people every year
  • One out of every ten farmers will roll a tractor at some point during their career
  • Of the 4.7 million tractors currently in us here in the U.S., only half have some form of rollover protection

In recognition of this danger, researchers at the University of Missouri have been working on new technology designed to not only prevent tractor rollovers but save lives.

The technology in question is actually a smartphone app called VR-PETERS (Vehicle Rollover Prevention Education Training Emergency Reporting System) that is designed to utilize the GPS functions and sensors found in the average smartphone.

How exactly does it work?

Simply put, the app senses a rollover and immediately sends both an emergency text message and email to select family members and emergency responders outlining the tractor’s precise GPS coordinates.

“More and more farmers are using their smartphones to monitor weather or calculate production inputs while operating machinery,” said Prof. Bulent Koc, the developer behind the app. “Since they already have their phones with them, installing VR-PETERS could help save lives.”

Interestingly, Koc and his fellow researchers have also developed a device that can be attached to a tractor, which calculates stability and informs a tractor operator when their machine is at risk of tipping. Not only will this serve to prevent rollovers, they argue, it will also serve to prevent false alarms via the VR-PETERS system.

It should be pointed out that the researchers have envisioned the VR-PETERS system being used in other industries, including construction and the military.

Please visit our workers' compensation page to learn more about your rights and your options in the event of a serious workplace accident.

Source: EHS Today, “Smartphone app saves lives of farmers involved in tractor rollovers,” Sandy Smith, May 7, 2013

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