From the road: Govt backs Down on Bull Bar Ban

Philip Lord — 25 February 2011

COMMON SENSE IS a term rarely used in our Occupational Health and Safety-obsessed world today, because it is too variable. What is clearly common sense to me could be the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard.

So forgive me if you think I’m crazy to say that overturning the move to ban bull bars is one of the greatest achievements for common sense I have ever seen from an Australian bureaucracy.

Catherine King MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, decided to stop the Regulation Impact Statement process yesterday, and promised the Government would not consider banning bull bars. She was quoted as saying: "Over recent weeks I have received strong feedback through the consultation process associated with the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) proposing the adoption of an international standard on pedestrian safety.

"Following careful consideration of the views and concerns put by individuals and stakeholders, I have decided that the proposal is not suitable for Australian conditions and I have directed the Department to withdraw the RIS.”

Of course this puts safety bodies like the Australiasian National Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP) into a spin. If no-one cared much about crash safety anymore, or if governments stopped thinking up new ways to keep us safe, ANCAP would be reduced to conducting offset barrier tests on wheelbarrows.

According to ANCAP’s swift press release issued Friday, ANCAP Chair, Lauchlan McIntosh, commented that "the Government should immediately withdraw its order to terminate the RIS process, and continue its consultation process with industry experts and other interested parties. Only then will it be in a position to implement pedestrian safety initiatives which will save hundreds of lives."

I was a pedestrian road victim in 1988, during a holiday in Paris. Worried about fast moving traffic on the 'wrong' side of a narrow road, I eventually saw a sizable gap and stepped out. Next thing I felt as if the road had been pulled from under me, then I landed on my back, badly winded and in pain. It was actually a young boy on his bicycle that had caught my foot as I stepped out. This is a true story, and I feel like a twit for having done it.

I have also been squashed between two 4WDs. My anterior cruciate had to be screwed back on. Sure, I needed a box or two of tissues and a good cry for a few months, but life goes on. I did not ask for government funding. I did not call myself the Pedestrian Squashed Knee Council and fax out press releases every five minutes about the perils of walking between 4WDs and how Something Should Be Done.

Generally, cars hit pedestrians because pedestrians are not looking where they are going. Or rather, they never seemed to latch onto the lessons kids learn about crossing the road: Look right, look left and look right again. Some pedestrians die on the roads because they are skittled in the CBD while blind drunk.

So let's try to blame someone, anyone, except the perceived victim in the equation. I know – let's blame the bull bar-eqipped 4WDs, they look as if they’d do a lot of damage to the poor pedestrian who harmlessly crossed the road 3m in front of a 4WD doing 50km/h.

Don't think this will be the last you hear of the quest to get rid of bull bars. There are too many industries that thrive on safety, or at least how the concept of safety is marketed.

Phil Lord is Caravan World's tow test guru.


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