What Humanity Would Look Like If It Had Evolved To Survive Car Crashes

It may surprise you to learn that your body cannot withstand the impact forces of a car driving at just under 19 miles per hour. Our species simply did not evolve in an environment where blocks of steel barrel all over the place. A collision force of just over 37 miles per hour would almost certainly result in our death. Yet, the idea of driving at 19 miles an hour reads as an imposition.

With this in mind, the government of the Australian state Victoria decided to run a campaign called Towards Zero, with the idea that if they raised awareness of the human body's frailty, people might drive and walk more carefully, and perhaps resulting in zero fatalities due to collisions.

Traditionally, these kinds of infomercials rely on heavy displays of shock and gore — cars rocketing into the air, people mangled, and so on. The team did want to be overly scientific without losing the visceral quality. "We needed to find a way to communicate that to people but not make them feel like it was a cold, clinical data point," Pearce said to Simple. "We decided to just focus on the human form. It's something everyone can relate to because it's about how we're all built." Meet Graham, a man who evolved to survive car crashes.

Meet Graham

By illustrating how radically different we would look if human bodies had evolved to include the biological equivalents of automotive safety equipment, the team hoped to display just how important driving carefully really is. Visitors to the website can click on different parts of Graham's body, like his brain, to see how the team, comprised of a trauma surgeon and a crash expert, redesigned the human body: "Graham's brain is the same as yours, but his skull is a lot bigger, with more cerebrospinal fluid and ligaments to brace the brain when a collision occurs. His head offers greater overall safety, effectively protecting the brain and reducing the damage caused on internal impact with the skull wall." You can find similar data for his chest, knees, face, and other parts of the body at risk in collisions.

According to Simple's profile, "Almost all those who saw Graham both online and in person (99 percent) believed that the human vulnerability message was important and 77 percent reflected on their own fragility when thinking about road safety and viewing Graham." So it worked, and a slight existential crisis was inspired in the Grahams of Victoria. 

A few years later, a parody of Graham was released: Grant, a human fit to endure the hardships of the advertising industry. The Drum lists features like "Ears that filter out conflicting opinions" and "An auxiliary liver to process copious amounts of alcohol."