Monday, 10 September 2012

your very first guide to the grey areas of victorian traffic law

I struggle with the notion that humans are innately moral creatures—that we instinctively know right from wrong.

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:
Cockatoo, Cockatoo
now what are you going to do
chirping
burping
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?


Yes.

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.

Of course, this law also means that you can't use your iPhone as a GPS navigator in the car.  All those little apps, gone to waste!  [edit: helpful commenters have pointed out that smartphones can be used as GPS units, provided that they are properly mounted in commercially designed holders.  I should stop letting anti-smartphone rhetoric get the better of my writing—it's got a habit of leaving me as red-faced as iPhone 4 owners who found their antennas less powerful than the antennae of an ant (and without the added benefits of being able to pinpoint the location of the nearest sugar cube to within a millimetre—there is not yet an app for this)]

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.

17 comments:

  1. "Of course, this law also means that you can't use your iPhone as a GPS navigator in the car."

    VicRoads legislation (Road and Safety Rules, 2009: Section 300, "Use of mobile phones"):

    Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, except to make or receive a phone call or to use its audio/music functions provided the phone:

    - is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle, or
    - can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone, and is not resting on any part of the driver's body.

    Using a phone as a navigational device/GPS while driving is prohibited unless it is secured in a commercially designed holder fixed to the vehicle.

    All other functions (including video calls, texting and emailing) are prohibited.

    Source: http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/RoadRules/MobilePhonesandvisualdisplayunits.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. @Mark:

      Very interesting. IMO, that VicRoads website is(deep breath!) wrong.

      If you look at the actual text of the road rules (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_reg/rr2009104/s300.html), there's no mention of allowing a phone to be used as a GPS under any circumstance.

      The only thing that (by the text of the law) securing a phone to the vehicle gets you is the ability to make voice calls. No other function is allowed.

      "Visual display units" have their own classification (http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_reg/rr2009104/s299.html), which is where standard GPS units (and, arguably, things like iPads) would fall in. But not phones.

      Delete
    2. You realise you are citing Tasmanian regulations? If you look at the relevant Victorian regulation you will see there is in fact a provision to allow a phone to be used as a GPS.

      "(1) The driver of a vehicle who is not a learner driver or the holder of a P1 probationary driver licence must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, unless- [...] (b) the phone is being used to perform a navigational or intelligent highway and vehicle system function in a vehicle that is not a motor bike and the body of the phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being used"

      Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (Vic) s 300(1)(b) http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_reg/rsrr2009208/s300.html

      Delete
    3. That is the Tasmanian Road Rules 2009, not the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2009.

      You can find the Victorian Road Safety Road Rules 2009 (the current revision as at 18/09/2012) here:

      http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/LTObjSt7.nsf/DDE300B846EED9C7CA257616000A3571/8790F14ACF9694F3CA257A4C001F15D2/$FILE/09-94sr007.docx

      or in PDF:

      http://www.legislation.vic.gov.au/Domino/Web_Notes/LDMS/LTObject_Store/LTObjSt7.nsf/DDE300B846EED9C7CA257616000A3571/5108B3336B98CCC8CA257A4C001F16D2/$FILE/09-94sr007bookmarked.pdf

      Page 362, Rule 300, 1b:

      "The phone is being used to perform a navigational or intelligent highway and vehicle system function in a vehicle that is not a motor bike and the body of the phone is secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle while being used; ..."

      Delete
    4. Oops. What a goose.

      Slightly ironic (given the ending of my post) that I should mistakenly refer to Tasmanian legislation here! Today's lesson: don't google in haste.

      FYI, I initially wrote the post using a PDF of the road rules sourced from the Vic government -- perhaps my version was outdated, or I simply missed the provision. Either way, cheers, the correction is noted.

      Now can we move the debate back to the artistic merit of my poem?

      Delete
    5. http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_reg/rr2009104/s300.html is a Tasmanian Regulation.

      The Victorian version:
      http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/vic/consol_reg/rsrr2009208/s300.html

      specifically allows a phone to used as a navigational aid as long as it is securely fixed to the vehicle.

      Delete
    6. Yeah, the error was more using outdated regulations. The states' different road rule regulations seem to all be identical in wording and content, it's just that Victoria's road rules had been amended at some stage to add that crucial bit in.

      Unlike your poetry which is timeless.

      Delete
    7. Why thankyou. To conclude, if you are taking your car on the ferry to Tasmania, bring a map and throw your smartphone overboard upon leaving Port Phillip Bay (just to be safe).

      Delete
  2. Of all the birds I'd like to be,
    I'd like to be a sparra'
    I'd sit upon the Princess Bridge,
    And help fill the Yarra.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great article. The's also the grey area of etiquette and roadlaw at roundabouts. Few drivers know that the first vehicle entering the roundabout has the Right Of Way, not necessarily who is on the right of the other vehicle.

    How often we just start to enter a roundabout when a hoon on your right who is still many car lengths from the roundabout but doing 80kph thinks they have ROW because they are on your right and barges through. They don't.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Just being a dick here, but seeing as how we're talking about the law, and the law is pedantic:

    A person must not consume intoxicating liquor while the person is driving a motor vehicle or is in charge of a motor vehicle.

    (2) For the purposes of subsection (1) a person is not taken to be in charge of a motor vehicle unless that person is a person to whom section 3AA(1)(a), (b) or (c) applies.

    The rule specifically excludes a person while accompanying a learner driver.

    49C of the Road Safety Act is what you're after.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right. I initially wrote my post up quoting both 49B & 49C, but trimmed that down for the sake of length and simplicity. Looks like I left an ambiguity in the accompanying text while doing this, as 49B catches professional driving instructors, while 49C catches parents + others. Fixed now, cheers.

      Delete
  5. The images are quite impressive and appealing. When I went to Melbourne, I went to visit an art gallery. I was unknown and afraid that I would be there on time or not. But the yellow taxi I hired, the driver had good knowledge about the routes and directions. He dropped me before time. Nice service.

    ReplyDelete
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