Part A: Depth Study: The globalising world Popular culture and public policy



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A road safety journey: 25 years of the TAC

Part A: Depth Study: The globalising world - Popular culture and public policy
Historical background

Automotive production on a commercial scale started in France in 1890 and in the United States a decade later. The car industry in Europe consisted of small independent firms that would turn out a few hand built cars. In contrast, American automobile plants had assembly lines, drawing parts from suppliers and putting them together at the plant. While in 1910, the United States had about 2,000 firms producing cars, by 1920 the number had decreased to about 100 and by 1929 to 44. In 1976, there were only 11 firms officially registered in America.
The Ford Motor Company was established in June 1903, and the company produced 1,700 cars during its first full year of business. Henry Ford produced the Model T as an economical car for the average person. By 1920, Ford had sold over a million cars. While automobiles had initially been regarded as a status symbol for the rich, they became increasingly popular among the general population because it gave people the chance to be mobile, which transformed the social, economic and geographical landscape.
As an entrepreneur, Henry Ford made two key decisions that shaped social patterns and popular culture on a grand scale. Firstly, he priced cars to be affordable and he paid his workers enough in wages to be able to purchase the cars they were manufacturing. The convenience of the automobile freed people from the need to live near rail lines or stations; they could choose locations almost anywhere in an urban area, as long as roads were available to connect them. Huge areas of land were purchased by governments to build freeways that became increasingly busy.
In every respect, Henry Ford’s mass manufacturing of vehicles provided people with economic and social freedom that were previously unimaginable. The impact on living habits and social customs was enormous. In the days of horse-drawn transportation, the limit of wagon travel was around 20 kilometres, which limited people’s employment and their social opportunities. Motor vehicles and roads narrowed the gap between rural and urban life. Farmers could easily and economically move freight by truck and regional schools and hospitals were now accessible by bus and car.
The Twentieth Century showed that popularity of the automobile tends to shift with social and economic forces. There was growth during the boom period after World War I but a rapid decline during the Great Depression. The rapid growth of car owners after World War II, particularly in Australia, the United States and Western Europe demonstrated the emergence of automobiles as a feature of popular culture. At the end of World War II, there was plenty of production capacity as factories turned from making the machinery of war to producing automobiles. During the war years, many people had saved money because there was little to buy and workers relied heavily on public transport. Once the war ended, they longed for the freedom and flexibility of the automobile.
Research questions

  1. The origin of Holden in Australia can be traced back to the 1850s. Explain how the company started.

  2. How did Holden serve Australia during the years of World War II?

  3. When did Holden begin manufacturing motor vehicles in Australia? What economic and social impact came from this manufacturing of Australian cars?


The impact of motor vehicles on popular culture

Motor vehicles radically changed city life by accelerating the expansion of population into the suburbs. Road networks encourage business and industry to move outward to where land is cheaper than in crowded cities, and where space is available for young families. New industries emerged such as fast food outlets with drive thru service, city and highway construction, insurance schemes, convenience stores, petrol stations and, of course, engineers who design more and more sophisticated vehicles. Road safety also became a major concern and has continued to dominate the thinking of people in the process of buying a new car. Banks also found a new and emerging business for people seeking car loans. The first drive thru was The Pig Stand in Dallas, Texas. In 1921, they modified their parking lot to allow people to order their food and eat without leaving their cars. Of course, Ray Kroc combined the assembly line idea with the food industry in 1948 when he started opening multiple McDonalds fast food stores.
Research questions

  1. Search websites under the names of ‘Old car brochures’ and ‘Old car advertising’.

  1. Select three cars that feature on the website(s).

  2. For each car:

  1. What are the main features outlined in the brochure?

  2. How would you describe the car’s interior and exterior?

  3. Explain three ways in which manufacturers at that time tried to appeal to consumers.




  1. The car has also had a significant impact on the world of film. There are many great films that idolise the car and the ‘car chase’ has become one of the most exciting aspects of cinematography. In the 1971 film, The French Connection, the famous car chase scene was filmed in single takes without closing the streets. According to the producer, two unscripted crashes occurred with the two stunt cars and there was one crash with an actual civilian vehicle. The director's commentary for the film claims that the movie car was travelling at 150 km/h. Of course, the 2012 James Bond movie, Skyfall, once again enhanced the popularity of the Aston Martin sports car. Select two films where cars are significant to the action and the narrative. Explain:

  1. The ways in which the car is depicted (is it a menace, a status symbol, an object of masculinity)?

  2. In what ways does your chosen film contribute to the love of motor vehicles that is such a major part of contemporary society?


How the motor vehicle changed the shape of Victorian life from the 1950s

Driving a car in Melbourne in the 1950s was very different to today. Drivers were required to follow the roads that had been laid down for horse and cart. The steam train had priority over motor vehicles, so drivers had to wait for railway gates to be opened manually by the keeper. At this time, there were no parking meters and travelling from Port Melbourne to Williamstown was best done by catching the car ferry across the Yarra River. Today, we have the Westgate Bridge.
With many people now able to afford motor vehicles, cars were soon to dominate political debate. Proposals to build freeways caused conflict between motorists and environmentalists, who wanted open spaces preserved rather than being given over to cars. With cars, there was a clash between personal safety and individual freedom. During the years of World War II more Australians were killed and injured on Australian roads than in armed conflict.
The motor vehicle also changed our social lives. In 1954, the first drive-in picture theatre in Australia was opened at Burwood, and Melbourne's first motel, situated in Oakleigh, was completed in 1957. The original plans were for the motel to be opened in time for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, and stood close to where the competitors in the marathon turned to begin their return run to the MCG. Near the Oakleigh Motel, Melbourne’s first major shopping centre was opened at Chadstone with a sizeable car park to cater for many customers who represented this new, motorised generation.
Today, the automotive industry has become vital in the economy of Australia and governments fight hard to support manufacturers. There is more to this than just money. Australians are proud of our local brands and many people have a great fondness for iconic vehicles such as the Holden Monaro and the locally built GTHO Falcon. However, with all this muscle and power comes the need for road laws, public safety measures and rehabilitation for those injured in accidents.
Research questions

  1. These questions require students to interview a person who was alive in the 1950s/1960s. In detail, note their responses to the following questions:

  1. What was your first motor vehicle and when did you buy it?

  2. How was your life changed (for example, were you able to take holidays that were otherwise impossible)? What other social impacts arose as a result of the increased use of the motor vehicle?

  3. What changes have you seen in the quality of roads and vehicles over your time as a driver?

  4. Are roads more or less congested now than they were when you started driving?


The real costs of owning a car: road trauma

Victoria has the highest density of roads of any state in Australia, with population centres spread over most of the state. Only the far north-west of Victoria and the Alpine region are without permanent settlement. We are linked socially and economically by high quality highways, and Melbourne has the most extensive freeway network in Australia.
In spite of this road infrastructure, one of the great challenges facing governments in the past 50 years is addressing the negative aspects of private vehicle ownership. There are many benefits with private transport, many of which have been covered earlier in this unit. However, there are other factors that need to be addressed, especially from the public health and environmental perspectives.
The annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated at $27 billion per annum. Of course, the social impacts of such crashes are devastating and go way beyond the initial loss of life and significant injuries. According to the Federal Office of Road Safety, road trauma levels have declined over the last four decades, despite considerable population growth and a 300 percent increase in motor vehicles. The number of road deaths per year nationally has fallen from 3,798 in 1970 to 1,277 in 2011.
Research questions

Go to the document entitled ‘The History of Road Fatalities in Australia’,which is published by the Federal Office of Road Safety, and answer the questions below:

  1. Between 1925 and 1997, how many lives were lost on Australian roads?

  2. In which year was there a peak in the number of deaths on Australian roads?

  3. Expressed as a ratio of:

  1. Fatalities per 10,000 registered vehicles; and

  2. Fatalities per 100,000 population

- explain the trends between 1925 and 1997

  1. Outline two road safety initiatives explained in the document that have contributed to the overall reduction in the national road toll.



The establishment of the Transport Accident Commission in Victoria

The concept of providing care regardless of who was at fault in an accident came about in 1971 with the Road Accident Hospital Accounts Committee. Under this scheme, 70 percent of an injured person's hospital bills were paid automatically by the insurers, regardless of whether the injured person was at fault, before additional compensation claims were considered by the courts. The success of this approach saw the establishment of the Motor Accident Board in 1974. This allowed for payment of medical expenses and weekly income payments until the injured person’s common law claim was settled. By the mid-1980s, however, the Board was effectively broke, and a new compensation scheme was needed. In 1986, the Victorian Parliament passed the Transport Accident Act 1986 establishing the TAC, which came into operation from 1 January 1987.


A key purpose of the TAC compensation scheme was to provide the assurance that everyone was covered regardless of fault, as well as allowing those who could prove fault to pursue further compensation through the courts. Apart from the management of Victoria's accident compensation scheme, the TAC also works to reduce the incidence and cost of transport accidents.
The TAC pays an average of $150,000 each road death and an average of $1,500,000 for each serious injury, such as traumatic brain and spinal injuries.   In the 2010/11 financial year, the TAC paid out $937 million in benefits and compensation to 43,794 people which represent a direct cost to the Victorian community, funded by premiums paid by vehicle owners. By preventing accidents, lives will be saved, injuries will be reduced and savings to the Victorian community will be made.
Research questions

Watch the video interview with former premier, John Cain, and answer the questions below. For an overview of TAC campaigns, go to the document, TAC campaign timelines.’



  1. According to Mr Cain, why were changes to the system of motor vehicle compensation necessary in the mid-1980s?

  2. What is Mr Cain’s view of the early Transport Accident Commission road safety campaigns? Why did the ads and slogans need to be so graphic?

  3. Conduct your own research to discover the following (www.tacsafety.com.au will be a useful resource):

  1. In what year was the mandatory wearing of seat belts introduced in Victoria?

  2. How many people died on Victorian roads in 2012? Of these deaths, how many were:

  1. male

  2. in rural areas

  3. bicyclist

  4. passenger

  5. aged 18 to 29?

  1. What does Mr Cain see as the major benefits to the motoring public of the introduction of the TAC in 1987?

  2. Why is it important that governments develop public health and risk reduction programs in areas such as road safety? Explain in 200 words.





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