City drivers keen on dangerous bullbars

Sydney Morning Herald

5 January 2001
By Robert Wainwright

Transport Writer

About 60 per cent of four-wheel-drive vehicles and half the utes and vans owned by city residents are fitted with bullbars that are unnecessary and dangerous, according to research by the NRMA.

Australia's largest general insurance group is calling for manufacturers to design “less aggressiv” bullbars to help reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths on metropolitan roads.

The NRMA study was supported by an Australian Transport Safety Bureau report which said that heavier, old-style bullbars should be phased out, especially in cities.

It also follows a decision by Australian motoring authorities, including the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority, to introduce new rules within three years under which bullbars would no longer be allowed to carry lights, antennas or fishing rod holders because of the added danger of protruding steel edges.

A spokesman for the NRMA, Mr Jack Haley, said last night that the high number of bullbars on city vehicles highlighted the urgent need for safer bullbar designs.

He said about 60 per cent of 4WDS and per cent of utes and vans used in urban areas have bullbars fitted. And many taxis also carry bullbars.

Mr Haley said NRMA Insurance supported the, draft Australian Standard, which set out performance guidelines for bulbar manufacturers to protect pedestrians from injury, but was disappointed that bullbar manufacturers had yet to agree on the proposal.

“A comprehensive ban on bullbars is not the answer but we believe that specific designs of bullbars fitted should be appropriate to the use and type of vehicle,” he said.

“Country motorists need bullbars for protection against animal impacts while driving on rural roads and bullbars shouldn't be banned in these areas.

“As the risk of animal impact in urban areas is virtually zero, there is no justification for full-sized bullbars on metropolitan or regional roads.

“They significantly contribute to the higher level of injuries suffered by pedestrians, cyclists and occupants of other vehicles in collisions”

Mr Haley said bulbar manufacturers should aim to reduce the risk of injury to pedestrians by incorporating features “that improve protection and still offer motorists a high level of safety from animal impacts”.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau report said bullbars saved about five lives each year in crashes with animals on country roads.

“It would appear, on balance, that bullbars present an additional risk to pedestrians and other vulnerable road users and also possibly to occupants of side-impacted vehicles,” the report said, adding that it was difficult to quantify the risk.

“There does appear to be some case for considering measures to phase out the use of older-style protruding rigid bullbars, especially in urban areas.”