Graham reaches millions as TAC vulnerability campaign goes global

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25 Jul 2016

The face of the Transport Accident Commission’s latest campaign has lit up screens around the globe as tens of millions tuned in to meet Graham and learn about human vulnerability on the roads.

Within hours of being introduced to the world at the State Library of Victoria last week, Graham – an interactive sculpture depicting what humans might look like if they had evolved to survive a crash – had captured the imagination of readers from Melbourne to Mumbai.

He quickly became a social media phenomenon and was one of the top-trending stories on Twitter and Facebook over his first weekend. He continues to make headlines in the world’s biggest newspapers and news sites, with articles appearing in publications including the New York Times, London’s Daily Mail, the Washington Post, BBC, CNN, India Today and Al Jazeera.

Less than a week after Graham’s reveal, the website had attracted more than 10.4 million page views from across the globe and some of Victoria’s biggest news websites reported unprecedented traffic as the world scrambled to learn more about him.

To produce Graham, the TAC collaborated with world-renowned Melbourne artist Patricia Piccinini, Royal Melbourne Hospital trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield and Monash University Accident Research Centre crash investigation expert Dr David Logan.

Trauma surgeon Christian Kenfield said he hopes Graham will help people to understand how vulnerable the human body is on the roads.

“On a nearly daily basis I see the devastating effects motor vehicle accidents have on the people involved and their family and friends, Mr Kenfield said.

“Almost every time I see or hear the helicopter land on the roof of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, it is someone coming from a car crash in regional Victoria”

TAC chief executive officer Joe Calafiore said Graham was designed to remind Victorians that their bodies are exposed to potentially fatal forces every time they use the roads.

“Graham and the concept of human vulnerability goes to the heart of everything we do in road safety,” Mr Calafiore said.

“People didn’t evolve to cope with the amount of force we are exposed to when something goes wrong on the roads and that’s why we need to be safer drivers, drive safer cars and build safer roads.”

Between now and Christmas, Graham will take the vulnerability message to every corner of the state on a regional roadshow of galleries, where visitors will be able to look beneath his skin using the latest digital technology and learn why he looks the way he does.

A school curriculum has been developed, enabling teachers to take Graham’s message back into the classroom where students will learn more about the physics at play on our roads.

“We recognise this campaign is very different to what people have come to expect in road safety education but we need to do things differently if we are to realise our vision of a future where no person is killed or badly hurt on our roads,” Mr Calafiore said.

“By making people confront the reality of their own vulnerability, Graham helps us to consider our own roles in road safety and how our own choices can protect us in the event of a mistake.”

After leaving the State Library of Victoria on August 8, Graham roadshow will visit the following:

  • Geelong Gallery (August 11 - September 15)
  • Bendigo Gallery (October 5 – October 30
  • Ballarat Gallery (November 02 – November 24)
  • Latrobe Regional Gallery (November 27 – December 15)
  • Mildura (September 15 – October 4)
  • Shepparton (date and venue TBC)
YouTube Version Show video transcript

The truth is that cars have evolved
a lot faster than we have.

Our bodies are just not equipped
to handle the forces

in common crash scenarios.

I'm Dr David Logan.

I'm a Senior Research Fellow

at the Monash University
Accident Research Centre.

My name's Christian Kenfield.

I'm a trauma surgeon here
at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

My name Patricia Piccinini
and I'm an artist.

On a nearly daily basis, I see the
effects of motor vehicle accidents,

both passengers, drivers,

and, of course, the pedestrians
that are involved in these accidents.

In the modern world we're subjecting
our bodies to much higher speeds

and the body just doesn't have
the physiology to absorb the energy

when things go wrong.

The dangers at even low speeds such
as 25, 30, 25km/h is quite great.

So if we were to try to design
the body, if we were able to do that,

in a way that would afford
more protection...

It's a difficult question. It's not
something that we think about often.

What excites me about this project is
its relevance to our community.

I get to collaborate
with really interesting people

and that's really energising.

I really feel as though it's possibly
to make a difference in road safety.

We really work hard on developing
evidence-based research.

In 50% of crashes,
the car doesn't have time to break.

PATRICIA: So what happens
to the body?

Does it go under or over?

For the higher cars,
like four-wheel drives,

instead of going over the top
of the bonnet,

if they're high enough,
they'll catch you

and they'll drag you underneath

The most significant part of the body
for injury is the head.

And so as the head stops, the brain
actually keeps moving forwards,

smashing against
the front part of the skull,

and then bouncing backwards

and getting an injury
on the back of the head as well.

And we just don't appreciate when
we're talking about it

the forces in a car accident,
but they're incredible.

The strongest man cannot hold himself
from going forwards in a car accident

because the forces are so great.

A crash is about managing energy,

so when we're moving along the road,
we have energy.

When we suddenly stop the car
because we're in a crash,

that energy has to be absorbed
by the car and by the driver.

It would be great
if we had more protection.

We want to stop over time.

What we need to be thinking
is airbag rather than armour.

It's sad that we need to think about
changing our body

just so that we can survive
a motor vehicle crash.

this is a challenge to make it work,

that it's not just a museum piece.

It can be the vehicle
for a very important idea.


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