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How to Cause a Traffic Jam

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?
Year of production - 1999
Duration - 1min 34sec
Tags - Australian cities, cars, human environment, public transport, see all tags


How to Cause a Traffic Jam

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About the Video Clip


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 × 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.

Curriculum Focus


This digital resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
P.1 A student demonstrates understanding of the relationships between composer, responder, text and context.
P.6 A student engages with a wide range of texts to develop a considered and informed personal response.
P.7 A student selects appropriate language forms and features, and structures of texts to explore and express ideas and values.
P.9 A student assesses the appropriateness of a range of processes and technologies in the investigation and organisation of information and ideas.
P.11 A student draws upon the imagination to transform experience into text.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

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 freeways.

Classroom Activities

    1. In small groups discuss what the video clip is about then write a 100-word summary beginning with the words, ‘This video clip shows’
      Use the following questions to help you:
      Is the video clip about a traffic jam?
      Is the video clip about human nature?
      Is the video clip about an environmental problem?
      Is the video clip about the loss of privacy?
    2. State the intended audience of the video clip.
    3. Identify and state the different points of view presented.
    1. Examine the way in which the video clip has been constructed and describe how the filmmaker uses different camera shots, sound effects (SFX) including dialogue, narration and music to tell the story and get a message or point across.
  1. Cars versus public transport is an endless debate associated with Australian cities. Many of the cars shown in the film have just one occupant. Governments often try to reward people for sharing cars, or penalise those who travel alone.
    1. Research arguments for and against the issues of car sharing and private cars versus public transport.
    2. Write a two minute speech, 600-word letter to the editor or 600-word essay arguing for or against one of the issues. Remember to include at least five major points, acknowledge opposing main argument and structure your argument logically so that it is convincing.
    3. Present your argument to the class.

Literacy Activity: Focus= Viewing / Analysing

  1. What is unpredictable? (1 mark)
  2. Why do you think this clip is called, ‘How to Cause a Traffic Jam’? (1 mark)
  3. Describe the shots in the clip which best justify the title. (1 mark)
  4. Who does the man on the mobile phone say, “Let the radio stations know”. (1 mark)
  5. Use the Macquarie dictionary to find the meaning of the colloquial word, ‘shemozzle’. (1 mark)

Further Resources


Auto Stories. (Episode One), Wrong Way Go Back, December Films & Film Australia, Sydney, 1999 (Television Series)