'Dangerous' DIY bull bars land driver with summons

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The Independent Online
A MOTORIST whose Toyota car was equipped with prominent bull bars - the designer bumpers increasingly used by vans and four-wheel-drive cars - has been charged by the Metropolitan Police for driving a vehicle 'in a dangerous condition'.

The motorist, whose name has not been released by the police, was driving his Toyota Tercel in Harlesden, west London, when he was stopped by a policeman and summonsed.

The do-it-yourself bull bars on the Toyota were very prominent and that is what, in the policeman's view, made the vehicle potentially dangerous. The 'dangerous condition' offence is a catch-all often used against motorists driving crash-damaged cars.

A file has been sent to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will decide whether the motorist will be prosecuted later this summer.

The Royal Automobile Club has been urging the police to take this type of action to stem the increase in the use of bull bars. Edmund King, the RAC's campaigns manager, said: 'We feel this trend must be nipped in the bud as bull bars are dangerous to pedestrians and serve little purpose. This case shows that many bull bars out there are dangerous and illegal.'

Bull bars, which are usually made of steel and are supposed to give the fronts of cars extra protection when involved in accidents, were first introduced in Australia because of kangaroos' dangerous attraction to car headlights. They have become widely used in Britain over the past few years, especially on four-wheel-drive vehicles and lately on vans. The existing legislation is unclear, but appears to allow the bars as long as they follow the vehicle's contours and do not stick out too much.

Recent work by the Transport Research Laboratory and by its equivalent in Germany has shown that cars fitted with bull bars would kill most children at speeds as low as 10mph. Children survive in accidents with cars without bull bars at speeds of 20mph.

John MacGregor, the Secretary of State for Transport, is currently looking at the issue, but is likely to conclude that it is a matter for Brussels rather than the UK, even though critics of the bars suggest that legislation could be brought in by the Government.

An earlier attempt by ministers to get manufacturers to impose a voluntary ban was rebuffed. The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers is pressing insurance companies to take legal action against owners of vehicles with bull bars involved in accidents. Frances McCarthy, secretary of the group's transport section, said: 'If bull bars have resulted in additional injuries or damage, then insurance companies could take action.'

The Independent on Sunday is gathering evidence on the effects of bull bars in accidents. If you have been in a crash, however minor, involving a vehicle fitted with bull bars, or know of major companies whose vehicles have bull bars fitted, write to Christian Wolmar at 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

(Photograph omitted)