Sunday, 2 February 2014

By the Numbers

EA Falcon from the Garden State FTW! - Source: Wikimedia Commons

Remember when number plates were a little piece of civic one-upmanship? Driving the length of the Hume, the Garden State would fight bumper-to-bumper with the First State and the Festival State. Further north, in a fit of unimagined creativity, those wily Queenslanders branded their vehicles part of the Sunshine State

They instilled some sort of small, positive civic pride: the knowledge that Victoria valued its gardens meant its people valued its gardens; South Australia their cultural scene; New South Wales their historical primacy; and Queenslanders...their sun - clearly a meteorological feature unique to our friends up north.  

But since those heady days of garden pride, Victoria's number plates have transforphed into a middling quagmire of automotive blandness. From the Kennett-era hubris of the state On the Move to the Bracksian vagueness of being The Place to Be, the Liberal government has turned our automotive identity into a mobile road safety billboard with Vic Stay Alert Stay Alive.

Insert civic slogan and/or punctuation here - Source: VicRoads

Not only has the government expanded the mind-numbing stream of road safety messages to our number plates, but they've managed to circumcise the name of our very state. We are "VIC" to Australia Post, we are ".vic" to our internet browsers, but we are Victoria to the nation and the world. Alas no longer.

Even though Victoria has recorded its lowest road toll since 1924, drivers are still - by and large - treated like naughty children. 1924 saw 224 deaths on the road and given Victoria's population is four times the size it was in 1924, it's easy to see what an achievement this is. Nonetheless, Victorian drivers get a small pat on the head but a stern warning that one death is one too many. Road safety is, of course, very important, but after years of the vast majority of people hearing and heeding the message, it's becoming a bit tiresome on TV, radio, newspapers, billboards and now the ubiquitous number plate. Surely it can be a place for something a little different? Something that gets people talking?  Something that is truly representative of Victoria?

Assuming kids travelling on the Hume still look out the window of their moving cars and not the iPads given to pacify them, they would be unable to glean anything from the home states of the passing cars except that they value road safety - something as unique and far less fun than Queensland's sun.  

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