New Year, new rules for Road Safety News

12.00 | 7 January 2016 | | 11 comments

Nick Rawlings, editor of Road Safety News, has issued a stark warning to the handful of readers who are monopolising discussion threads on this newsfeed: moderate the number of comments you post, and the tone within them, or face being excluded from the process.

Nick Rawlings said: “There is a handful of people who, quite frankly, are monopolising discussion threads. Their entrenched and well publicised views, and the speed with which they post to news items, is stifling debate; other newsfeed readers are telling us that if they see certain names they simply don’t get involved in that thread, or even read it.

“In the past I’ve requested privately to these people that they post less frequently and focus on topics in which they have some expertise or specific interest. For the avoidance of any doubt, I’m now making this request publicly.

“I’m also advising readers that we will not be posting comments that go against the spirit and tone of this newsfeed. In the past we’ve spent quite a bit of time moderating posts when they stray beyond our house rules, and explaining to the authors why we have done so, but because of the time and effort involved in doing this is no longer feasible.

“From here onwards we will simply not publish posts if we are hearing too much from any one individual, or if a regular contributor transgresses the house rules.

“We are all for healthy debate and are not trying to exclude the views of those who challenge the road safety profession, far from it, but the current situation is reducing and narrowing discussion, which is the opposite of our aims.

“We will also not publish posts that include personal attacks or unsubstantiated claims, or which use provocative language and/or a tone intended to escalate the temperature of discussion threads.

“The primary audience for this newsfeed is road safety professionals and allied disciplines who work to reduce casualties and collisions. While we are delighted that others take an interest in the subject and wish to contribute to the debate, they need to do so in a courteous and appropriate manner.

“The saying ‘less is more’ comes to mind in terms of the number of posts people make. I do hope all regular readers will take this message on board and that our newsfeed will remain a thought-provoking but less combative forum going forward.”


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    I am sorry that you have chosen to interpret Nick’s request for mutual respect and a more focussed and less repetitive or combative approach in Newsfeed posts as a decision by Road Safety GB and the Road Safety profession not to listen to alternative views. I hadn’t taken you for a conspiracy theorist and I can assure you this is absolutely not the case. Nick makes it clear that open and public discussion of issues and new ideas remains one of the main purposes of the Newsfeed. We have no wish to isolate ourselves from the wider world and the multitude of opinions and particular causes that many people have and we thrive on and benefit from alternative views.

    Although you haven’t known it, a number of “agree” ticks on your posts have come from me when I have agreed with the point you made. You’ll have to work out which ones you think they may have been!

    Nick’s New Year statement on behalf of Road Safety GB reflects the many representations we have received from our members and from others in various professions and organisations who read the Newsfeed but who have also become increasingly frustrated by its being narrowed down to repetitive position statements and ping pong chains of posts that discourage anyone else from getting involved. For many other readers these chains do become what is described by Jill as “slanging matches”.

    It is time for us to move things on to a broader and more constructive Newsfeed dialogue and that is what we are doing. You and anyone else are still welcome to contribute to the discussions under these terms.

    Honor Byford, Chair, Road SafetyGB
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    I have been fed up with some of the dialogue on the website. At times when someone made a point the responses almost became a battle of trying to prove that one person is right and everyone else is wrong. Everyone should be entitled to their opinion and just because you do not necessarily agree it should not become a forum for a personal slanging match between a few contributors. Some of the contributors have at times been extremely disrespectful to one another. Make your point but accept that someone may have a different view, use the agree and disagree buttons but don’t make it personal!

    Jill Winstone Salford
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    Dear Nick,

    I trust that you will publish this, my last posting on RSGB, in full, your above statement having merely brought forward a decision I had been considering for some time. Who knows, it might even trigger a personal record for “agree”! Not that I am bothered as I take Churchill 1930’s view that, “If it comes to a choice between being popular and being right, I prefer to be right”.

    If, as seems certain, your comments are directed at me, amongst a few others,I must first say that I am at least as fed up with predominantly adverse reactions to my comments and reading drivel from those who have no idea what they are about as others seem to be with reading my informed comments and researched evidence. Take two examples of said drivel – a regular contributor who believes that knowing 85th percentile speeds enables him to calculate average speeds, and who proudly states that he prefers his own opinions to evidence! (Not that he is in the least alone in that respect, it has long been one of the major problems in this country).

    Nor is there anything remotely new about rejection of inconvenient facts – 800 years ago an Italian was burned at the stake for claiming that the world was not flat and Newton’s Laws of Motion were laughed to scorn when first published. Amongst other examples.

    I refer readers to “Cognitive dissonance” and “My mind is made up, please do not confuse me with the facts”, both on Wikepedia. They characterise 99% of the responses I have received over the past 12 years from officials in government and elsewhere, who are furiously battening down the hatches in doomed attempts to avoid admitting that they are wrong and always have been.

    I realise of course that “like” or “dislike” ticks usually in single numbers do not necessarily represent the consensus view, but I would have thought you needed more not fewer readers’ comments. As you agreed a few years ago, there’s not much point in conferences or debates where only those who are allowed to participate. How curious therefore, it seems to me, that your article warning off dissident views it nevertheless claims to be open to them!

    But thanks, at least for allowing me to participate until now, and all the best to you and your readers as you circle your wagons to keep out intruders and chat amongst yourselves. For my part I will put to better use the time I have wasted here pointing out the truth to those who don’t wish to hear it.



    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    Commendable move – I think the “Agrees” and “Disagrees” on this thread speak volumes!

    Jamie, Nottingham
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    I don’t think such a decision will have been taken lightly and I congratulate you on the move. It is always interesting to see new names on the forum, but I am sure that debate is often stifled by entrenched views which conspire to bring discussion round to a particular hobby-horse every time.

    Michael, Edinburgh
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    Bold move – I hope it achieves the desired result.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    We’re off to a good start aren’t we Nick? Someone already alleging it’s ‘drivers v overtly anti-drivers’, which in my view it isn’t and never has been. The common and agreed theme of RSGB forum should, fairly obviously I hope, be collision prevention, with differences in opinion to be expected and respected, but only where based on expertise and experience and not hearsay or vaguely-sourced ‘facts’ and internet chat.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    I think the main problem is that too little of the discussion is motivated by road safety – it tends to be drivers versus overtly anti-driver groups/charities. I can’t think of anyone who would make me perform the childish gesture of refusing to participate in threads – that sounds like an attempt to create yet another echo chamber where only one side is heard. It is indeed a shame that very few, if any, genuine road safety or driving experts participate in discussions, although, of course, they will be spending their valuable time doing their jobs rather than getting involved in website bun fights! Discussion or no discussion, Road Safety GB is an excellent website for news and information on road safety.

    Paul Biggs, Tamworth
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    I welcome Nick’s comments. I am not sure if I am “one of the names” involved but like to think that if ever any of my posts are edited (and I do not notice it very often) then it is accepted in good grace and is only the editor exercising his/her due prerogative.

    I think that it also useful to stick to referenced arguments when commenting, especially if these are from a credible source. Merely repeating opinions as if they were facts and on the basis of “firm belief” is no substitute for references.

    This website gives those associated or interested in Road Safety an opportunity of a window to look into the industry to both observe and to influence. And perhaps, just like driving, that is a privilege rather than a right. It becomes a better debate with greater involvement from Road Safety Professionals and so discipline in the way that people comment and debate should not be allowed to inhibit that participation.

    That said, there are times when it is appropriate to challenge views and I would hope that as long as these are done in a restrained, thoughtful and non-repetitive manner then this makes for a better debate, a better website and a better informed audience.

    My best wishes to all in 2016

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
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    I would commend Nick and RSGB for taking this action. For too long now many of the news story threads have becoming boring due to the amount of ’empty vessels making the most noise’. I know from speaking to others in road safety that they don’t even bother to read the majority of the posts as comments in many cases have no relevance to the original posted article.

    We all know road safety is a serious subject and sharing of best practice is totally beneficial, however the discussion threads over the last year/s on the website have done nothing to enhance the reputation of the industry or enlighten the reader.

    If the individuals concerned don’t like the new procedures then by all means they can go and form their own special interest groups on their own website, I am sure Nick and the team at Stennik would happily set a website for them to post their verbal onslaughts or then again perhaps not!

    Bill, Glasgow
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    I think the source of Nick’s woes has been well identified by Sidney Dekker when he writes;

    “The debate between Old View and New View interpretations is not just about two perspectives. It is often about vested interests and dire stakes at the heart of any organisation. Battles to learn about safety typically exposes existing organisational stress and can amplify it. Virtually all components of the New View expose the underlying rifts, disagreements and mixed character of the organisation itself. These conflicts, though unsettling, are crucial to learning about safety.”

    Those of us that are the target of Nick’s ire are in fact providing that much needed conflict and if we don’t who will?

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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