Graham: The ultimate survivor

MELBOURNE • Graham is not handsome, but he has something that no human being can claim: A body that would survive most road accidents,

That means a huge skull like a bicycle helmet that protects the brain inside, and a fat, flat face with a small nose and almost no ears.

The result is far from good-looking and the rest of his body is no more attractive.

However it reveals how humans would need to evolve to survive the kind of car crashes that are routine, daily, around the world.

Graham is an interactive sculpture designed to reveal how humans would need to evolve to survive the kind of car crashes that are routine, daily, around the world.
Graham is an interactive sculpture designed to reveal how humans would need to evolve to survive the kind of car crashes that are routine, daily, around the world. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Graham is actually an interactive sculpture developed by a trauma surgeon, a crash investigation expert and an artist as part of a road safety campaign by the Victorian state government.

"Cars have evolved a lot faster than humans and Graham helps us understand why we need to improve every aspect of our road system to protect ourselves from our own mistakes," Mr Joe Calafiore, chief executive of the Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC).

Graham does that by shocking anyone he meets. His unlovely body features exactly what experts say we would need to survive injury or death in crashes at speeds as low as 25 kmh.

His skin is super-thick, his neck cannot break because there is no cervical spine to fracture in a whiplash injury, his ribs have rolls of built-in air-bags, his knees bend in all directions, and his feet are small and hoof-like to help in jumping out of harm's way.

Mr Calafiore said that people "can survive running at full pace into a wall, but when you're talking about collision involving vehicles, the speeds are faster, the forces are greater and the chances of survival are much slimmer".

Royal Melbourne Hospital trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield and Monash University Accident Research Centre crash investigator David Logan briefed artist Patricia Picciniuci about what bodily features a human would need to avoid serious injury in a car crash.

She sculpted the result from silicone and fibreglass, plus human hair. The confronting, life-size image is touring Victoria as part of the TAC road safety campaign.

The TAC website for the project says: "Graham shows us what we might look like if we were built to survive on our roads. He's a reminder of just how vulnerable our bodies really are."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2016, with the headline 'Graham: The ultimate survivor'. Print Edition | Subscribe