Bullbars big hit for rural safety

James Nason, 25/07/2011

A national survey has highlighted the critical role bullbars play in protecting vehicle occupants and minimising damage during accidents involving animal strikes.

The survey was conducted by the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association (AAAA) earlier this year when the Federal Government was considering changing bullbar design standards to increase pedestrian safety.

The European-designed safety measures proposed included recommendations to change bullbar construction materials from steel to softer polymers from 2013. The changes would save 65 pedestrian lives and prevent 3000 serious injuries over a 15 year period, advocates suggested.

The proposal sparked a groundswell of opposition, including from Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce, who said polymer bars had been christened “budgie bars” in the past, “because we reckoned that was about all they could stop.”

“Steel bull ars stop impacts with wildlife.. the car might break, it might smash, but the people inside walk away,” Senator Joyce said.

The Federal Government withdrew the proposal in February, but the high level of opposition at the time was reflected in the 32,600 individual responses that completed AAAA’s online survey.

Survey highlights

The AAAA released the survey results last week.

The findings highlighted the extent to which animal strikes occur on Australian roads:

  • 73pc of respondents had experienced an animal strike on their bullbar equipped vehicle in the past five years. That is 22,088 people.
  • 59pc or 17,852, people, had experienced one to three strikes in the past five years.
  • 7pc, or 2118 people, had experienced between 11 and 20 strikes in the past five years.
  • 2pc, or 605 people, had experienced more than 100 strikes in the past five years.

"These incredible animal strike numbers must be considered in the context of the total Australian road death toll being about 1500 people a year,” AAAA executive director Stuart Charity said.

“The figures highlight the fact that animal strike is a very common occurrence for Australian families, particularly those living in regional, rural and remote areas. They face the constant prospect of animal strike and the trauma of hits or near misses.”

The effectiveness of bull bars in protecting vehicles was also underlined with respondents reporting the vehicle damage consequences of their most severe animal strike in the past five years:

  • With bullbar: 33pc no damage, 54pc minor damage, 12pc major damage, 0.5pc vehicle immobilised.
  • With no bullbar: 4pc no damage, 29pc minor damage, 46pc major damage, 20pc vehicle immobilised.

The extent of reported occupant injury resulting from the most severe animal strike in the past five years was:

  • With bullbar: 99.3pc no injuries, 0.7pc injuries sustained.
  • No bullbar = 80pc no injuries, 20% injuries sustained.

Mr Charity said the survey results also dispelled the common misconception that most bull bar equipped vehicles never left cities, with 94pc of respondents spending at least a week each year travelling in remote parts of Australia for recreational purposes. 

The AAAA said the only incentive offered to people to participate in the survey was a commitment by the Australian 4WD Council to pay a dollar per survey response to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, up to a maximum of $22,000.

"We are delighted to now deliver on that commitment, with council members funding that $22,000 donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service," said Stuart Charity.


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