When a bullbar is fitted to a vehicle it can be dangerous to pedestrians and can adversely affect the safety of the vehicle too.
Bullbars in the suburbs
Laboratory testing of bullbars demonstrates that they can make the front of the vehicle harder in impacts with pedestrians than the frontal area of the vehicle. Accordingly, the likelihood of serious injury and fatality is increased to pedestrians.
Unless you really need a bullbar for driving in rural areas, then you shouldn’t have them fitted to your vehicle.
Bullbars in rural areas
In rural areas, bullbars are used to protect vehicles in a collision with an animal (e.g. a kangaroo) or trees.
A bullbar protects the cooling system of the vehicle and reduces the chances of a driver and any passengers being stranded.
It also protects the vehicle from scrub and bushes when driven off-road or on overgrown tracks.
A bullbar can be used with winches to recover other vehicles, animals or equipment.
Do you really need to fit a bullbar?
In a crash, a bullbar fitted to a passenger vehicle may result in more severe injuries to pedestrians. Research has shown that a vehicle fitted with a bullbar can cause death of a pedestrian at half the speed of a vehicle without a bullbar.
Market research conducted on behalf of VicRoads suggests that many people fit bullbars to vehicles to either:
- improve the safety of their vehicle in a crash
- enhance the look of their vehicle.
VicRoads does not believe these are valid reasons for fitting a bullbar and strongly recommends not fitting one in these circumstances.
A pedestrian can usually survive a collision with a vehicle travelling at, or below 60 km/h. However, if the car is fitted with a bullbar, the speed at which the pedestrian will survive is only 30 km/h.
In other words, by fitting a bullbar to a vehicle, the pedestrian survival factor is reduced by 50 per cent.
The low contact point decreases the risk of spinal, pelvic and head injuries.
The high contact point increases the risk of spinal, pelvic and head injuries.
If you want to fit a bullbar
If you want to fit a bullbar for either a new or used car, the following information will help you ensure that it:
- meets the design requirements of the Australian Standard ( Sections 1,2, and 3.1 of the Australian Standard AS 4876.1 2002)
- complies with VicRoads regulations which can be found in Vehicle standards information VSI1 - Bull bars [PDF 168 Kb]
To comply fully, bullbars must meet both the Australian Standard and the VicRoads regulations.
A bullbar that complies with the Australian Standard, generally follows the shape of the vehicle to which it is fitted, and does not have forward facing protrusions or sharp edges. Examples of acceptable and unacceptable bullbars are shown below.
How a non-compliant bullbar can affect the safety of you and your passengers
Vehicles are still being fitted with non-compliant bullbars such as this example.
The image shown below is an example of high bullbars with sharp edges and angled forwards, which can cause death and serious injuries to pedestrians and other road users.
In addition to being illegal and unsafe for pedestrians, these are the reasons why a fitting a non-bullbar could make your vehicle less safe for you and your passengers.
Airbags may not work properly
Vehicle manufacturers conduct considerable research to ensure airbags will inflate properly to protect the vehicle’s occupants. If the bullbar is fitted to the vehicle, the secondary restraint system, such as an airbag, may not inflate correctly in a crash, and cause additional injuries to its occupants.
Crumple zones may not protect you either
The front structure and panels of a vehicle are intended to crumple in a collision to minimise the likelihood of injury to its occupants. However, a bullbar may reduce the effectiveness of crumple zones and collapsible steering columns.
Side impact crashes are more serious
Occupants of a vehicle hit, in a side impact collision, by a vehicle fitted with a bullbar, are more likely to be seriously injured. Also the forces exerted by the vehicle with a bullbar, particularly a 4WD, will impact higher up the other vehicle, and closer to the chests and heads of its occupants.
The car headlights can be obscured
The bullbar or fittings should not obscure the headlights, parking lights, turning indicators or any other lights on the vehicle.
You may not see as much as you should
The bullbar should not obstruct the vision of the driver. It should also not project further beyond the front of the vehicle than is necessary. When sitting in the driver’s seat, in the rearmost position, the driver must be able to see, either the surface of the road 11 metres in front of the front of the vehicle, or the front edge of the vehicle, when looking across the top of the bullbar.
Dangerous edges and corners
In a crash, pointed corners and sharp edges of a bullbar can be dangerous to other road users. They increase the risk of injury to a person, or damage to another vehicle.
Some bullbars can be safer
A newer style of bullbar such as the nudge bar, and those made of advanced polymers, are typically smaller, use lighter materials and are more compatible with airbags. VicRoads encourages bullbar and vehicle manufacturers to develop bullbars that are compliant with the latest European Standards for Vehicle Frontal Pedestrian Systems.
These line drawings are published by Standards Australia.