Rushing emergency responders to desolate locations to prevent a heartbreaking tragedy
COLUMBIA, Mo 5/15/13 (Beat Byte) -- A smartphone app developed by Mizzou researchers may help end the leading cause of death among farmers -- tractor rollover accidents, which claim 250 people annually who are alone and unable to call for help.

The VRPETERS (Vehicle Rollover Prevention Education Training Emergency Reporting System) app detects rollover movements, sends an e-mail and phone message to emergency responders, and uses GPS to locate farmers pinned beneath tractors, often far from home.

"Tractor rollover accidents have been killing people since the beginning of their use in agricultural production," said Bulent Koc, assistant professor of agricultural systems management at MU and developer of the app. "More and more farmers are using their smartphones to monitor weather or calculate production inputs while operating machinery. Since they already have their phones with them, installing VRPETERS could help save lives."

Government data shows one of every 10 operators will roll a tractor at least once. "Many farmers think they can jump out of their tractors in the event of a rollover, but this isn’t the case usually," Koc said. "Side rollovers can occur in just three-quarters of a second and most people need a second or more to react to an event. They often can’t reach their phones to make an emergency call."

Only half of the 4.7 million tractors on U.S. farms have rollover protection, a built-in feature of Koc's app, which he developed with research assistant Bo Liu. Part of the app, a device attached to the tractor minimizes false rollover calls and warns the driver when the tractor approaches its "rollover point."

The app can also be used on construction vehicles, trucks, snowmobiles, military vehicles, riding lawnmowers, and all-terrain vehicles, Koc said.