Every day seems completely different, like I'm playing a video game with infinite original levels.
I don't know why I'm not thinking more about the car. Is it because I can't sympathise with what it would be like to have your car become worthless by a flood? Is it because I have no powers of sympathy, and so don't care? Is it because I'm a crazy person and managed to convinvce myself that I could fix it by writing letters to politicians? But why am I doing that?
So I wrote this letter, and if anyone were to be so kind then I think I need an honest critique, in order to take measure of my sanity. I'm crazy I think.
Traffic signs operate by basic principles of attention. Including salient appearance (e.g. reflective surface), or pavlovian expectation (e.g. at the end of a street). Their ability to be responded-to can be a matter of life or death. All perception is based on context, and there is an assumption of a common knowledge shared by all license holders. This is a common sense expectation, as illustrated by the senior officer accusing the driver of ignoring a frequently viewed television flood danger ad. The officer was correct in believing that perception is framed by perspective, and that such framing will significantly affect an individual’s conscious experience. In this case however the driver does not watch any television, and was not aware that she was expected to do so. The point being illustrated is that all traffic signals are enforced following a common sense assumption; it is fair to expect that all (competent) persons will react in response to the signage.
A similar point may be made about the the officer expressing an expectation of geographical knowledge. The officer was once again correct in believing that such a framing perspective would enhance the visibility of flood warning, but was incorrect in his larger point and knew nothing about the driver’s life.
The issue at stake is, “What are the expectations implicit in traffic sign laws, and furthermore what duty of care is expected in preventing flood damage?”
It is always difficult to transcribe an experience, nonetheless:
driving along an 80km/h road,
been driving around getting dinner and not seen any signs of trouble,
coming up hill,
see the sign as a dark yellow ambiguous object on the opposite side of the road,
start to try and imagine what the words are,
there is a brief moment of fortuitous angles when the sign is clearly lit up by the car’s lights,
then immediately it is past,
shocking the driver at how close it is,
now the thoughts arrive confused,
have finally become cognizant of the words that were momentarily seen,
driver confused at why a sign would be placed so irresponsibly,
driver is shocked per belief that the sign’s placing would only be the act of malicious vandals,
suddenly the road looks strange,
and suddenly there is water entering the vehicle at an alarming rate.
Having no means of accurately gauging the danger posed by the rising waters as the headlights shone across the surface of endless inky blackness, and fearing for her passenger, the driver immediately dialed 000. As the waters rose over the seats, the driver and her passenger climbed on top of the vehicle through the sunroof.
One might question the difficulty experienced by the police in understanding the car’s location, or perhaps the number of vehicles invoked on the call, or perhaps the “arguably jovial, arguably callous” presentation of the police upon arrival. One might also introduce the points that police should be more proactive in their duty to prevent these sorts of accidents, and certainly less punitively one-track minded.
It took a few moments for the driver to understand that she was being told off for having the car crash into a flooded river. As if it had been done maliciously. And if not malice, it was implied, then it was willful stupidity, because everyone has seen the tv ads. And even if the sign is hard to see, then the driver should have driven slower even before seeing the sign. An officer helpfully explained, that ever since the Toowoomba floods, new legislation means that what the driver had experienced was a finable experience.
After all, the driver did nothing wrong, and therefore the offense was a matter of fate, i.e. chance plus negligence. The driver is not obligated to conform to a particular lifestyle in addition to following the traffic laws. The driver lives a rural lifestyle, but hardly leaves her home, spending most of her time caring for her horses. She does not watch tv.
The sign is (elevated and) underneath the street lights at the turn off of the roundabout that leads to the flooded road, there are barricades blocking off the potentially lethal flood, and there is a second sign a little way further just in case. There is also a police officer on duty.
Would be a good use of the cones and barricades and poles that are otherwise seen so liberally sprinkled around all and any road works.
But actually: low, bad angle, wrong side of road, no lighting, and no cones et al. “Arguably” pathetic.
The police officers were acting as if the driver had chosen to drive into the river and destroy her car. When the driver attempted to (lightly, politely and with respect) communicate her experience to the senior police officer, she was threatened with additional fines carrying portentous names and ambiguous meanings.
If you read this with an attentive mind then you will have noticed more than one path of contemplation on the world’s imperfections. At the very least there are questions about the role of councils, police officers and their ethos, legislation, duty and obligation, and having a fair go.
What are the expectations implicit in traffic sign laws? Common sense
What is the expected role of traffic signs in preventing flood damage? Better than this
What happens when a legal, competent driver is harmed because of institutional misuse of traffic signs?
If the car had only gone a short distance to the right, then it would have been carried by the currents and the driver and her passenger would have certainly died, the police officer informed the driver at the scene. Please recontextualize all of the above with this in mind.
Do you see that river in the image above. Neither did the driver on ANY other occasion she drove through it. It does not have a bridge. The river apparently doesn’t exist except for when it “floods”. Wait what does the word “flood” mean. That wasn’t a flood, that was a river that filled up. And! they! didn’t! block! it! Several days after “the” rain. And after many many* cars have already crashed into the river. And then the police came, breathalysed (level 0.0) and fined the driver.
There is no street lighting in this area, at all, and the speed limit is 80km/h.
* On the way home, wet and despondent, sitting along side the tow-truck driver, I made a voice recording as he told me that he himself had personally towed about 4 cars out of this river over the last few nights, and knew that there was at least one still drowned. He of course, represents only a single member of a single tow-truck company. He confirmed that the sign had been in the same position over that period
I don’t think that this is the only road that floods in queensland. Does society have any duty of care?
“At least you’re alive,” gee thanks, but an hour ago I was alive and I had a car, now I have no car, no way to buy food for myself, my horses, no way to get to the doctor or the pharmacy, oh and great I get to pay a tow truck to give me back my ruined car, oh and the police have decided to be…..
It might also have been discussed how the car was what I bought with my inheritance when my father died. And now it’s just gone.
If you've actually somehow read that. They what I oh so desperately want to know, ignoring its literary validity, does it brainwash the reader into believing this to be an injustice. Especially in a state that 3 years ago published a commissioned report into how to deal better with floods...