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Should Bull Bars Be Banned in the USA?

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GMC Police Push Bars
A GMC Police vehicle with bull bars

American trucks have a lot of controversial accessories – we’re looking at you, truck nutz. It turns out that one accessory flying under the radar should be garnering more attention, and possibly getting banned.

We’re talking about bull bars, also known as push bars.

If you live in an urban area, you might have only seen them on your city’s police cruisers or SUVs. The metal add-on attaches to the front of a vehicle and comes up in front of the manufacturer’s bumper. They protect the front end of the car in case of a collision, whether with wild animals like you might encounter with a truck outside of a big city or with other cars. StreetsBlog USA reports that Australian drivers appreciate their protection if they hit kangaroos, and here in North America they can shield vehicles from deer or moose.

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Why would such a simple accessory cause such an issue? Cars equipped with them are more dangerous to what they hit. If you’re not an animal lover, you might not be worried about causing extra damage to wild critters that run out into the road. However, if you hit a pedestrian or cyclist, the consequences could be deadly.

In Australia, Angie Schmitt writes for StreetBlog USA that researchers discovered that push bars exert 10 times the force of a bumper alone in a collision. After that, the country placed serious restrictions on where vehicles with the accessory could go. Before the U.K. banned bull bars, its British Transport Research Laboratory attributed the extra metal to dozens of deaths in the country.

Besides exerting extra force when they hit something, there is a debate about if push bars compromise the crumple zones of car’s design. These are parts of the front end of a car made to crush easily in a collision. This might not sound like a good thing, but the folding metal actually absorbs a lot of the impact and keeps occupants safer. This redistribution also has the possibility of protecting pedestrians as well. Some accessory companies, like Australian company Ute Ltd. says well-made push bars don’t stop crumple zones from working, and anti-bar advocates say they do.

While bull bars are considered a manly accessory for a vehicle, they’re not as popular as other aftermarket parts. The reason it’s important to know more about them is because of how many police vehicles come with them. You can see in the tweet below that General Motors actually promotes them as an option for police vehicles.

Police departments reportedly like push bars because they protect their vehicles from damage if they have to use their cars to stop escaping criminals or move cars out of the way. However, StreetBlog USA points out that they are often a factor in unintended collisions. Schmitt points out a case in Missouri where a police officer struck and killed a pedestrian with his car’s bull bars. Recently in Dayton, Ohio, a stolen police cruiser hit a minivan full of children, killing two of them. If you look at crime scene photos and video, you can see the cruiser SUV has push bars installed.

Without more research into push bars or bull bars, we’re not quite ready to take a stand and say if they should be banned totally, or if their use on police cars should be more regulated. However, it’s worth noting that other countries have restricted their use.

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If police really are interested in keeping roadways safer, they should conduct studies with their service vehicles and consumer models to determine how many lives could be saved by pulling bull bars off of America’s streets.

News Source: StreetBlog USA, Ute Ltd., How Stuff Works