Graham the ugly side of crash protection

Graham is the only ‘person’ designed to survive a car crash. Hence why he’s so grotesque.


NOT a face – or a body – you’re likely to forget in a while: But that’s the very point about Graham.

This bizarre and bafflingly deformed figure is the physical embodiment of an inconceivable idea: he is the only ‘person’ designed to survive today’s high-impact road traumas.

Graham – how he came to be called this remains something on a mystery – is an interactive, lifelike sculpture who fronts a new Australian road safety campaign.

Our neighbour’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) worked with sculptor Patricia Piccinini, who in turn took advice about how he should look from a leading trauma surgeon and a road safety engineer.

Their views were based on their own knowledge of traffic accidents.

That’s what Graham is all about. The beauty of this grotesqueness is as a stark, shock reminder to us all about the susceptibly of the human body to the forces of a car crash.

Graham has been designed with bodily features that might be present in humans if they had evolved to withstand the forces involved in crashes.

This shift to evolutionary science and human vulnerability is a big shift from the traditional road safety campaigns that are conducted here, but as as a demonstration of our vulnerability to collisions, Graham is probably going to be massively effective.

As you can see, Graham doesn’t have a neck because these snap easily in car accidents. He also has a flat, fleshy face to protect his ears and nose. You’re wondering about all those extra nipples? They’re to protect his ribs, like a natural set of airbags.

TAC says studies have shown that the human body can only cope with impacts at speeds people can reach on their own, unassisted by vehicles.

“People can survive running at full pace into a wall but when you’re talking about collisions involving vehicles, the speeds are faster, the forces are greater and the chances of survival are much slimmer,” chief executive officer Joe Calafiore says.

“Cars have evolved a lot faster than humans and Graham helps us understand why we need to improve every aspect of our roads system to protect ourselves from our own mistakes.”

Calafiore said the science of human vulnerability underpins Victoria’s new Towards Zero approach to road trauma reduction.

“We have to accept people will always make mistakes, but modern vehicle safety technology and safe road design can drastically reduce the forces involved when a crash happens, making them more survivable,” Calafiore adds.

The installation is being shown around Victoria but anyone can interact with Graham online