When I was in grade 5, I was (for reasons unknown) taken out of my regular classroom for an hour each week and placed in a small group of like minded know-it-alls for some advanced learning. Our first task was to write a poem about an animal. This was my effort:
now what are you going to do
just please don't do a poo.
I was deadly impressed with my work. Structurally, it shunned the usual plodding primary school cadence for a more asymmetric style of rhyme. In terms of content, it was grounded in a powerful realism; everyone who has ever owned a house-trained bird knows the number two fear of avian owners: being shat on.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I was promptly banished back to the regular-people class on account of my poem being immoral, unsuitable, childish (!), thoughtless—simply wrong.
My internal right-wrong compass has not since improved, and my excuse for any wrongdoing (that the Earth's magnetic field has a particularly striking effect on said compass, like that experienced by a salmon) has yet to be accepted by even the most slow-witted of accusers.
I've discovered there is only one cure for a wonky moral compass: knowledge!
And in that spirit, I neatly segue into today's topic—saving YOU from errors in right and wrong with a robust discussion of the lesser-understood traffic laws enacted in our fine state of Victoria.
Q: Does moving my car from one parking space to another get me more parking time?
It was this question, first raised at a pub amongst friends, that prompted this entire blog post. It came up, and nobody was quite sure of the answer. I got home and looked online, and nobody there was sure either—opinions ranged from unsure ("my friend is a cop, and I think he said..."), to assertive, to plain strange (you are allowed to re-park the car as long as you "drive far enough for normal wheel erosion to move the parking inspector's chalk mark").
It's actually quite eye-opening how little most of us, m'self included, know about most of the basic laws that govern us from day to day. We've gotten so complex as a society that it's impossible for us to know how to live by the rules without expert help. It wasn't always like this. Back in pre-evolutionary times, when God asked his secretary Moses to make up copies (single-sided) of the Ten Commandments to mail to each of the tribes of Israel, He knew that less was more.
Luckily, help is here. Unlike our Heavenly Father, I'm bringing you the law unconditionally, with an added promise not to throw a hissy fit and turn the Yarra river red with the blood of your firstborn if you ignore what I have to say. Here it is:
A driver must not park continuously on a length of road, or in an area, to which a permissive parking sign applies for longer than the period indicated on the sign.
A "permissive parking sign" is simply one of these things pictured above. For my foreign readers, "2P" means two hours worth of parking, "1/2 P" means 30 minutes parking, and so on. If you didn't know, confusion is the Australian way—taking something that is quite simple and easy to use in other parts of the world (like a sign that says "2 hours") and making it as complicated as possible in a vain and futile attempt to implement "world's best practice". Pah!
You'll notice the sign has an arrow on it. This indicates the area of road to which the parking sign applies. A parking sign continues to have effect along a stretch of road in the direction of this arrow until its effect is negated by another parking sign. As an example (you know how much I love diagrams):
All spaces pictured above to the left of the yellow car would be 2 hour spaces. According to the above law, you may not "park continuously" in this length of road. What, then, is to "park continuously"?
A driver parks continuously on a length of road, or in an area, to which a permissive parking sign applies, from the time when the driver parks on the length of road, or in the area, until the driver, or another driver, moves the vehicle off the length of road, or out of the area, to which the permissive parking sign applies.Even if the yellow car moved left along the road to another space in the above diagram, it'd still be "parking continuously" under the law. Your two hours does not reset simply by moving spaces—you must leave the area of road controlled by the sign.
Now, looking above, the yellow car has two main options once two hours runs out: drive around the block and re-park in its original spot (this ensures it leaves the area controlled by the sign), or move the car directly from the 2P to the 1P spot (this moves the car into a different sign's zone of influence, and the clock starts anew).
I, more hesitantly, would also say you could move your car across the street without first going around the block. Although you are still on the length of road bounded by the 2P sign, you are no longer in the area to which the 2P sign applies. I'd say that the sign's power applies only along one side of the road. Park away.
As this conversation first came up at a pub, let's explore what happens when the law, automobiles, and alcohol mix.
Q: If I can drink then drive (provided I stay under the limit), may I drink while driving?
Up until late 2011—yes! But not anymore:
A person must not consume intoxicating liquor while the person is driving a motor vehicle or is in charge of a motor vehicle.The same restriction applies when teaching a learner driver. So, you sadly cannot enjoy a nerve-cooling scotch while your teenager learns the finer points of the manual transmission system.
Q: Okay, I'll leave the car at home and take a taxi. Can I knock the froth off a cold beer whilst in a cab?
Nope!! This one is quite interesting; take a look:
A passenger in a taxi-cab must not drink from a container that contains, or purports to contain, liquor.and:
A passenger in a taxi-cab must not possess an open container that contains, or purports to contain, liquor.Wow. So at its most extreme, Victorian law prohibits you from pretending to be drinking alcohol in a taxi (or carrying around life-saving medication in a beer bottle)! And do you know what the fine is for this? A staggering $704.20!
I'm not exactly sure what the rationale is behind banning pretend-drinking—perhaps the Minister responsible for this was one of those odd frat-house characters who becomes personally insulted if you are not equally shitfaced as they are at all times on a night out. And so, determined to take action against the beer-nurses and mocktail-sippers of Victoria, the Minister rushed through Parliament the Banning Purported Drinking (Go Hard or Go Home) Bill 1998.
Personally, I think there are greater threats to society than people purporting to drink in taxi-cabs—such as taxi drivers that purport to know the basic road network of Melbourne, but are actually unaware that Brunswick Street is not in Brunswick but in Fitzroy, Fitzroy Street is not in Fitzroy but in St Kilda, St Kilda Road is not in St Kilda but in Melbourne, and Melbourne Road is not in Melbourne but in Williamstown.
Q: Look, I really want to drink alcohol whilst being propelled by an internal combustion engine. Is there any way I can legally drink alcohol as a passenger in a car?
Yes! Well, it depends. Where do you live?
Contrary to popular misconception, the car is not a private place. The roads are public—no matter whether you are inside a large expensive metal box or not.
Public drinking laws in Victoria are regulated at the local council level. This means (especially in Melbourne, where there are many councils) that if you are driving a group of mates around on a boozy magical mystery tour, the status of your beer-drinking passengers will change from law-abiding larrikins to outlaw hooligans in the space of mere minutes!
In case you were wondering, yes, I have made a map of inner Melbourne:
Moreland, Yarra, Stonnington, and Bayside councils ban drinking on public roads outright. The City of Melbourne bans public drinking in the CBD, but allows it everywhere else. Port Phillip council bans it between the hours of 8pm and 9am—meaning that it's bottoms-up come 7:55pm. Hobsons Bay, Maribyrnong, Moonee Valley, Darebin and Glen Eira councils only ban public drinking in certain high-use zones, such as the waterfront, Footscray Market, Mt Alexander Road, Preston Market, and Caulfield Racecourse.
Somebody needs to devise a race across Melbourne where the goal is to drive from point A to point B in the shortest possible time whilst the car passengers drink as many beers as possible (staying within all laws, of course—like speed limits and the above no-drinking areas). This has "good idea" written all over it.
Enough about booze:
Q: Was buying an iPhone a bad idea?
Q: No, let me finish! I know I can't text and drive, but can my iPhone get me into trouble on the roads in other ways?
Oh yes. Have a look at this one:
The driver of a vehicle must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked.Now have a look at what the definition of "use" includes:
Entering or placing, other than by the use of voice, anything into the phone, or sending or looking at anything that is in the phone.This means that if you receive a text message, and (as on the iPhone) the contents of the text automatically flash up onto the screen, even the slightest glance at your phone will render you liable to our great state of Victoria in the sum of $1408.40!
What a diabolically cruel law! As humans, we're not exactly hardwired to ignore something that's flashing and buzzing in an urgent attempt to get our attention. This is almost like the time the Lord our God put on a free fireworks display yet turned any spectator who dareth look into a pillar of salt, causing immense awkwardness at future job interviews when He forgot to remove "benevolence" from His list of people-skills.
So, if you hadn't bought that stupid phone in the first place, the money saved could've bought you a small holiday to Tasmania—where you could've seen how people can live perfectly happy lives without telecommunications or motorised transport of any sort whatsoever.