If you want to get away with murder, buy a car. That could easily be the "message" of Woodrow Phoenix' latest graphic novel, Rumble Strip - except that of course, the reality is never that simple. The truth is far more complex and, as Woodrow outlines our increasingly dangerous relationship with cars, deeply disturbing.
Perhaps best known for his work in the 1980s on magazines such as Escape, Blaaam and Blast - and strips such as Sumo Family and Liberty Cat - Woodrow makes no secret of the fact that he himself is a car driver. But neither does he hide his anger at the reckless way people use our roads, endangering not just other car drivers but cyclists and pedestrians... and, the world over, those who cause accidents invariably get away with murder.
Using stark, haunting and attention-grabbing imagery to illustrate the complex mania that road use and road building engenders, Woodrow reveals the terrible effect our "love affair" with cars and speed has had on so many people who have suffered at the hands of incompetent drivers. His powerful polemic is backed up by a huge amount of statistical data -- for example, that over 1.2 million people are killed in road traffic accidents around the world each year. By 2020, road traffic accidents could outstrip stroke and HIV as one of the main causes of preventable deaths.
Want more? In the UK, although cars are regarded as safer, the number of child deaths in road accidents has increased in recent years. (Perhaps because more children are now driven to school rather than walk there, because it's 'safer' -- when it seems it clearly isn't).
Whether you're a pedestrian or a car driver, Rumble Strip does more to illustrate the dangers of the conflicts and accidents of poor road use than any dry statistics: it holds up a mirror to the way cars are used, the way pedestrians are regarded, and the reflection is distinctly ugly,. It's also getting uglier as demands increase for more bypasses, more flyovers, more freedom to use cars - anything that will maintain car drivers pretence of "freedom of the open road". After reading Rumble Strip, I'd say that freedom that is a illusion to the point of delusion, and a general failure to recognise that has comes at a terrible price society as a whole seems incapable of recognising.
This is a timely, well researched and fascinating novel and one which Jeremy Clarkson would probably hate. Surely yet another reason for getting out there and buying a copy...
• Buy Rumble Strip from amazon.co.uk
• Broken Frontier Review
"This is not a book for car lovers, or maybe it is. It would be too easy to say that this is a manifesto against cars. It is not. What it is, is a strong statement about the dangers of the road." Read the Full Review...
• See below for detail of a special launch event for Rumble Strip in Brighton on 12 June 2008