Saturday, November 21, 2015

Mobile phone network is safety critical now

The uncle of the Louise Hopkins was walking down the coast path today. The weather was terrible today and we got chatting, he told me about his impending hip operation and also about the very recent death of his niece which I found documented online here and here.

Terribly sad. The uncle said that she had run out of fuel, that she tried to use her mobile phone to call for help, but the mobile network she was on was down and hence felt she had to walk. The man mentioned in the article had special needs and was unable to do more than follow instructions. There was also a child there.  A courier van had hit her with a wing mirror, but the uncle at no point suggested blame on the courier.

I don't know if the mobile network was down or up. What it does strike me is that unlike 20 years ago when you could reasonable expect to wave down a car and get a lift to the nearest petrol station, that
is not the case any more. Many drivers would run someone in distress over rather than take the risk of stopping, the culture has changed, you can't reply on other people being willing to help, though of course many will. There is no longer an implied duty of care to other motorists.

I think this means a couple of things

  • 1. Louise should have felt she could have called 112 (lots of people don't know it exists) and got help, even if it was only to call the AA/RAC or her family. Time for public information films again maybe. I  feel I could not call 112 in that situation without getting a ballocking from plod, though I may be misguided in this.
  • 2. Do what the french do, make a requirement by law that requires a hi viz vest or jacket in a car for each person
  • 3. Mobile phone networks should be seen at safety critical infrastructure that is fault resilient. If it fails, the operator is subject to fines for extended outages and must report on the failure and remidial action to OFCOM.
Would any of the above made a difference in this case? Maybe. Still very sad.