MPs to call for ban on bull bars

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The Independent Online
A NEW wave of pressure to ban bull bars from the front of cars, vans and lorries is mounting after further evidence that they are causing unnecessary deaths.

Previous protests led to Euro- MPs demanding that the steel fashion accessories be scrapped throughout the European Union, and Mr Major indicated he would consider a British ban - but nothing has been done.

Now, however, more than 100 MPs are expected to sign a Commons motion echoing a coroner's call last week for laws to ban them. Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, expects at least double the support he received last year, when 60 MPs signed a similar motion. He said: "We've been saying for a long time that these bars are deadly and we had hoped that they would be banned before more fatalities occurred. Sadly that has not been the case."

The Department of Transport says that legislation is needed from the European Commission before it can act, but the Commission's proposals on making cars more pedestrian-friendly are still being discussed and are unlikely to become law much before the end of the decade. Mr Flynn and his supporters say Britain should take unilateral action.

Already the growing campaign against the bars, first introduced in Australia to reduce the impact of collisions with kangaroos, but used in Britain mainly on "off-road" vehicles which never get mud on their wheels, has led to motor manufacturers redesigning their bull bars and some large fleet-owners removing the bars entirely.

Nissan has produced a plastic bar which is fitted to all models, Mitsubishi is developing a polyurethane bar, while Land Rover now offers bars for its Discovery which are made of energy-absorbing foam plastic.

Tragically, the Discovery which killed 10-year-old Helen Baggs was fitted with the old-style steel bars. Helen, of Whitley in Wiltshire, was hit by the Discovery last July. She died six days later - which one expert said showed the accident was almost survivable and the bull bar might have made all the difference. Doctors said the main factor was damage to her lungs, at the height of the bar.

The coroner Paul Forrest commented last week: "I do voice concern regarding the use of bull bars on vehicles. They really ought to be banned."

On Thursday, bull bars were also blamed by a fire officer for having contributed to another road death, when a 62-year-woman was killed near Inverness after her VW Polo was hit by a Toyota pick-up fitted with bars

DHL, the delivery company, has just taken all bull bars off the half of its 627-vehicle fleet fitted with them. A spokesman, Paul Bellamy, said: "We have reached our decision because of concern over the implications for public safety."

Despite the mounting pressure against bars, a counter-campaign is being fought.

Graham Scott, editor of Off-road and 4 Wheel Drive magazine, said: "The level of debate on this issue has been hysterical. There is no strong evidence that bull bars are dangerous."

Selwyn Rowley of the Association of Protector Bar Manufacturers said: "We have not found a single case in which protector bars can be blamed for the death of a pedestrian."

Of the Helen Baggs case, he said: "The salient point is that a 10-year- old walked out in front of a two-ton vehicle travelling fast." The association has developed a code of practice and Mr Rowley said campaigners were doing more harm than good by trying to get all bars banned: "They should be working with us to ensure safe bars are encouraged."