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Video Clip Synopsis:
No matter how well our roads are monitored, the human factor is always unpredictable. What happens when a semi-trailer runs out of fuel on the freeway?

1min 34sec

How To Cause A Traffic Jam is an excerpt from the film Wrong Way Go Back (26mins), an episode of the series Auto Stories (4 x 26 mins), produced in 1999.

Wrong Way Go Back: With one car on our roads for nearly every man, woman and child in this country, solving traffic problems is a never-ending nightmare. Yet it’s just another day at work for the road crews and traffic controllers who monitor Melbourne’s roads via a vast system of cameras. Together they deal with one emergency after another in a vain attempt to keep the freeways flowing. Meanwhile, at Knox City Council a debate rages. Will the council recommend to State Government that further extensions to the current freeway system should cut through the suburb? But at what cost to the environment? Engineers and environmentalists compete to shape the transport options. But who will council support? The outcome surprises everyone.

Auto Stories: A character-driven series that explores themes of vanity, responsibility, dependence, pride, obsession, love and death through our relationship to the car. In Australia there is a car for nearly every man, woman and child, causing traffic congestion, accidents and environmental nightmares. No one is immune from the pleasures and dangers of the car. Everyone has an auto story to tell.

Auto Stories is a Film Australia National Interest Program in association with December Films Pty Ltd. Produced with the assistance of Cinemedia's Film Victoria and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: English
Year: 11-12
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Cars; Public transport; Cities; Individual versus public rights; Public transport; Privacy versus efficient control

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:English course framework (11-12) — responding critically and analytically to texts
NSW:English Stage 6: Close study of text, Texts and society
NT:English Stage 1 Texts and contexts
Qld:English senior syllabus: Texts in their contexts; textual features; Constructedness of texts
SA:English Stage 1 Texts and contexts
Tas:Senior Secondary English: Ideas and issues strand; Texts and contexts strand; Applications strand
Vic:English Language: Unit 3 — Language in society; Unit 4 — Language in use
WA:English Year 11 — Print texts (non fiction), Non-print texts
English Year 12 — Print texts (non-fiction), Non-print texts

Context / Background Information

The Monash Freeway brings a huge volume of traffic into Melbourne from the south-eastern suburbs each weekday morning. Freeways like the Monash Freeway are major capital works that are costly but dramatically improve traffic flow. Traffic controllers monitor the freeways for accidents and problems that occur on a regular basis. They watch the roads with the assistance of cameras. Traffic controllers also fly in helicopters to monitor traffic congestion. They observe the traffic conditions and their reports are heard on radio stations warning motorists to expect delays or to take alternative routes. Emergency service drivers are on call for breakdowns and accidents. Emergency phones to call for help are at regular points along the freeway.

Discussion Pointers

  1. What image of life is given in this video clip? How is that image created by the filmmaker?
  2. Look at the way in which the video clip has been constructed. Comment on the main elements used by the filmmaker to tell the story and get a message or point across.
  3. The video clip shows a number of ways in which roads are being monitored. Is this a worry, an infringement on people’s privacy? Or is it a fair and reasonable measure needed to control a public situation?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. What is the video clip about? Is it about a traffic jam? Or an environmental problem? Or human nature? Or the loss of privacy through monitoring? Or something else? Have small groups in your class take a different one of these (and any other) ideas about the subject matter of the video clip, and construct a narrative to fit the video clip. Compare the ways in which several comments on or interpretations of the same scene are possible.
  2. The video clip is a partisan one, presenting a particular point of view. Have members of your class draw one of these ‘character cards’: Minister for Transport; Truck driver; Traffic controller; Other motorist; Opposition Shadow Transport Minister; human rights activist. Other members of the class are journalists who ask questions of specific characters to get their views on the issue of cars in urban areas.

Modules That Use This Clip

English Year 9-10, SOSE/HSIE Year 11-12, English Year 11-12