BULLBARS are an icon of country roads, but their use is a practical one, seen by many as a necessity to fend off panel-damaging critters along the roadside.
However, some bullbars are fixed in the sights of NSW police, who are cracking down on non-compliant designs.
Western Region highway patrol boss Inspector Jeff Boon said police would continue to enforce the rule following a successful one-day blitz last month where highway patrol officers caught 38 motorists with what they had deemed to be illegal bullbar designs.
Some bulbar designs became illegal in 2003 after changes by then Roads Minister Carl Scully to allowable design features.
“They delay deployment of airbags, take away crumple zones, and do all sorts of damage to a pedestrian if you were to hit a person,” Inspector Boon said.
“These bars turn a survivable crash into a definite catastrophe for the pedestrian.”
While 99 per cent of the bullbars on the road were compliant, he said purchasers should be aware of which manufacturers had approved designs.
Motorists fined for non-compliant bullbars are given a defect notice, with about a week to remove the bar, Inspector Boon said.
“They can either put a legal bar or the bumper bar back on. Legal bars are readily available, so it shouldn’t be an issue.”
Manufacturers caught fitting an illegal bar to a NSW registered car risk being fined more than $600.
Bullbars are not allowed to make the car wider, they shouldn’t have sharp edges and should slope back towards the car, following the car’s shape.
“When the legislation was introduced in 2003 it was not retrospective because putting a great lump of steel on the front of an old car doesn’t make too much difference to the crash rating,” Inspector Boon said.
Northern NSW has fielded the greatest number of offenders, with many getting bullbars fitted at Goondiwindi and Toowoomba in Queensland.
One manufacturer said the bullbars were compliant with safety standards, but declined to comment on legal advice.
“We’ve heard some manufacturers have been telling people their bars are compliant when they’re simply not,” Inspector Boon said.
“When a bullbar is fitted, the driver should ask the manufacturer or retailer for evidence that it complies with Australian safety standards.”
A Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) spokesman said RMS was aware of the issue and reiterated all vehicles fitted with bullbars must comply with Australian design rules and road transport regulations.
“The standards set out requirements about bullbars as they can pose a risk to pedestrians,” the spokesman said.
Inverell panel beater David Simpson, from Sapphire City Smash Repairs, said vehicle owners were “irate” over the ban.
“People are coming in and going off their tree. They’ve got a vehicle there and need to spend $1000 or more replacing the illegal bar,” he said.
“Out here bullbars are an absolute necessity. I’ve got cars in here with the fronts ripped off because there’s no protection. Any bullbar is better than none.”
Mr Simpson said the legislation appeared to have been brought about after several incidents where children were struck by sport utility vehices with bullbars in Sydney.
“The ban is totally understandable in a metropolitan area, but what works there doesn’t work here,” he said.
“The illegal bars face forward to give them more strength and push the animal away from the vehicle so they minimise the damage.
“If they didn’t face that way the roos would hit the bar, come straight over the bonnet and end up in the front seat with you.”
Several drivers with bullbars to whom The Land spoke were unaware of the rule and thought their bullbars, which cost up to $8000, were legal in every State.
Among them was a young man from Inverell whose mother was caught and fined while driving to work in his ute.
“I had no idea about the rule. I don’t think anyone really knew about it,” he said.
He’s written to Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall about the issue but hasn’t had a response.
“They (police) want it removed so we’ve just parked it in the shed. I don’t really want to pull the bullbar off it,” he said.
“It sounds like it’s a rule more suited to city areas where it’s more about people than roos. They keep forgetting about us out here in the country.”
A Wee Waa woman, who wished to remain anonymous, and was about to order a new bullbar from a Queensland manufacturer, cancelled her order after hearing about other drivers being fined and issued defect notices.
“The smash repairer who was fixing my ute told me it’d come back on him if there was a problem, so I’ve gone with another manufacturer,” she said.
WEE WAA driver Toby Nancarrow decided to be pro-active on what was the right thing to do with his bullbar, so he took the issue straight to the source.
Mr Nancarrow, 18, was in primary school when the ban on five-post bullbars was introduced.
He spoke to a Roads and Maritime Services representative and two highway patrol officers who looked over his 2013-model Toyota Hilux SR5 and pointed out what they felt might have been issues with the bullbar.
Police officers told him the local command was planning to crack down on the bullbars from yesterday.
Mr Nancarrow, who uses his vehicle to get to work at a local cotton gin, said, given what the police interpreted as legal, they would be hard-pressed to find many legal bullbars in the State’s North West.
“They’re (bullbars like his) popular because they’re good bullbars. They’ve got a good reputation as a strong, tough bar and they do a good job protecting your car.”
Mr Nancarrow has spent a considerable amount of money on the bullbar and improving the vehicle’s suspension to carry it.
“I (originally) had no idea about the rule. If I did, I wouldn’t have spent all that money getting it fitted and getting the suspension kit.”
He said he’d spoken to his manufacturer - Tuff bullbars - which insists its designs are legal and was sending safety certificates to Mr Nancarrow this week.
He hopes they arrive before he is pulled over again so he has them ready to show the police.
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