New standards for pedestrian-friendly bullbars

Sunday Mail Sunday 2 June 2002

Sunday Mail Sunday 2 June 2002  


New standards for pedestrian-friendly bullbars - Raising the bar


By: Stuart Scott


BULLBARS will become less dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists if suggested new safety standards are implemented.


However, some of the "pedestrian-friendly" designs may be less effective at protecting vehicles in a head-on strike with a kangaroo or other animal.


After five years of fierce debate, a national committee is close to agreeing on the first voluntary code for "vehicle frontal protection systems" -- bullbars -- as fitted to thousands of cars, utes, 4WDs and trucks.


This follows outcry at the number of people injured or killed when struck by bullbars.


In Europe, the sale of bullbars is being banned because of the danger to pedestrians and cyclists.


New South Wales is the first state to check vehicles for dangerous protrusions such as fishing rod holders, radio aerial mountings, spotlights and winches on bullbars.


The Pedestrian Council of Australia claims "well over 90 per cent" of bullbars do not meet Australian Design Rules and are responsible for up to 20 per cent of pedestrian deaths.


A compromise proposal for an Australian Standard governing bullbars has been worked out by representatives of government, motoring groups, safety bodies, consumer organisations, car companies, bullbar manufacturers and other bodies.


This month they vote on the first part of the proposal -- how to protect other road users -- and the standard is likely to be in place by late this year.


Aggressive battering- ram style bullbars will be out. The approved style is expected to be more rounded, following the contour of the vehicle.


It will be curved upwards so anything hit by the bullbar will go over the vehicle, rather than under it.


Existing bullbars will be allowed to remain.


The Australian Automobile Association's technical services director David Lang said the first priority was to protect other road users, then the vehicle.


"When the majority of bullbars hit anything, it is a pedestrian," he said. "Most aren't fitted in the outback; they're on cars in the cities.


"Getting a standard in place would be a big step for Australia."


RACQ spokesman Gary Fites said bullbars had their place, but "they need to be as benign as possible for pedestrians".


"The days of getting an old iron gate and welding it on the front of the car have well gone," he said.


"No doubt bullbars can be mighty useful. They can save motorists west of the Great Divide a lot of angst and vehicle damage.


"However, we are not encouraging city slickers, or even occasional off-roaders, to fit them to their vehicles."


Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby said the Federal Government should immediately ban "killer-style bullbars" from the roads.


"We're hopeful the standard will come in," he said. "It will be voluntary, and not retrospective, but at least it will be a step in the right direction.


"Clearly, well over 90 per cent of bullbars are against that law.


"It is only a matter of time before someone hit by a car fitted with a bullbar sues the driver, the bullbar maker and the bullbar fitter."



Caption: A bullbar on a four-wheel-drive vehicle.


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