MPs call for bull bars ban

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HUNDREDS of ambulances have been fitted with bull bars to protect them in minor accidents even though the bars can easily kill pedestrians.

A survey by the Independent on Sunday has found that about a third of ambulance fleets have the bars fitted. An ambulance with bull bars severely injured a woman in Nottinghamshire.

Three police services - Gwent, Gloucestershire and Cleveland - also have vehicles with bull bars.

Many ambulance fleet managers justify the use of the bars because they save on repair costs after minor accidents. Some even suggest that they 'increase safety for our patients and drivers'. One ambulance service, Oxfordshire, said: 'We don't hit pedestrians. The bars are very useful as they act as an anchorage point for ropes and protect crew and patients inside the vehicles.'

But work by the Transport Research Laboratory and its equivalent in Germany has shown that pedestrians can be killed at speeds as low as 10mph by vehicles with bull bars, while most accident victims would normally be expected to survive impacts at 20mph. And far from helping vehicle occupants in crashes, the research suggests that the rigidity of the bars could lead to injuries.

Ambulance services which have the bars fitted on substantial numbers of vehicles include Oxfordshire, Staffordshire, East Sussex, South Yorkshire, West Country, North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Berkshire.

Several services, including North Yorkshire, Hampshire and Humberside, are reconsidering the use of bull bars following the Independent on Sunday's campaign.

Nottinghamshire, which had 100 vehicles fitted with them, decided to remove them following earlier articles. The service, which deals with 75,000 emergency calls a year, is being sued by a woman who was run over by a vehicle answering an emergency call last December.

Berkshire and East Sussex services say they will remove the bars if instructed to do so by the Government.

Dawn Primarolo, Labour's health spokeswoman, has tabled a series of questions to the Secretary of State for Health, Virginia Bottomley, asking if she will instruct ambulance services to remove bull bars from all their vehicles.

Ms Primarolo said: 'Ambulances are about saving people's lives, not about putting them at risk. It is totally inappropriate for ambulances to have these macho accessories.'

Another Labour MP, Paul Flynn (Newport West), has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament calling for the bars to be banned after he received a parliamentary answer from Roads Minister, Robert Key, which said that 'the impact of a bull bar appears to be significantly more than on a flexible bonnet'.

The Independent on Sunday is collecting evidence about the effect of bull bars in crashes. If you have been involved in such an accident, please write to Christian Wolmar, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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