Bull bars 'kill up to 70 a year'

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Bull bars on the front of cars and vans could be responsible for up to 70 people per year being killed in accidents, according to a study by the Transport Research Laboratory.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, cited the research yesterday when introducing a 10-minute-rule Bill in the House of Commons which would ban bull bars from the front of cars. The bars, originally invented in Australia to prevent kangaroos damaging vehicles, have caught on as a fashion extra on many four-wheel-drive vehicles and now their use is spreading to ordinary cars and vans, with an estimated 200,000 per year being sold.

While the Bill, like a similar one in the House of Lords which has received its second reading, has no chance of becoming law, Mr Flynn, who this week met the European Commissioner for Transport, Neil Kinnock, feels that the campaign has a good chance of success.

He said: "The commission is drawing up an amendment to a previous directive on vehicle design which could result in bull bars being banned on new vehicles by this summer."

The drafting of the amendment results from a meeting last year between Mr Kinnock and Steven Norris, the Road Safety Minister, who is anxious to ban bull bars but says that legislation has to be made at a European level.

At a press conference organised by Mr Flynn yesterday, Ann Baggs, the mother of Helen Baggs, 10, who was killed last year after being struck by bull bars fitted to a Land-Rover, said she was convinced that her daughter would have survived had the vehicle not been fitted with bars.

Helen died three days after the accident from injuries to her chest which was struck by the bars. Mrs Baggs said: "Both the surgeon and the coroner said they thought she would have survived if the car had not being fitted with bull bars." The owner of the Land-Rover Discovery has since removed them, as have many people who have been warned by campaigners of the extra danger they present.

The preliminary findings from an investigation of police accident reports suggest that the previous calculation, which showed that around 35 people a year were killed by vehicles with the bars, was an underestimate. While the researchers emphasise that it is impossible to say how many would have been killed even if the vehicles involved had not been fitted with bull bars, studies by the TRL and similar agencies in Europe show that pedestrians can be killed at much lower speeds by vehicles fitted with them.

The Royal Automobile Club yesterday said that even the new figure could be an underestimate. Edmund King, the RAC's campaigns manager, said: "Many police forces, including the Metropolitan Police, did not take part in a bull-bar accident survey in 1994 which meant the results now being analysed do not give a complete picture and the dangers could be greater than anyone has previously anticipated."