Project: A Study of Accidents Involving Bull Bar Equipped Vehicles

Reference: S070M/VF

Last update: 03/12/2003 15:34:33


The present bull bar study is intended to obtain data on real world 'bull bar' accidents as opposed to impact tests simulating such accidents. The objective is to estimate the number of additional casualties and injuries resulting from vehicles being fitted with bull bars. It makes use of a voluntary police survey of accidents involving bull bar equipped vehicles, which was arranged by the Department of Transport.


Traditional 'bull bars' (also known as crash-bars, nudge-bars, roo-bars, protector-bars and even styling-bars) are strong metal structures fitted to the fronts of vehicles to prevent damage to the grill, bonnet and lamps of the vehicles in minor impacts. Testing by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and by BASt in Germany, using impact test procedures developed to assess the safety of cars in impacts with pedestrians, has demonstrated that in general vehicles equipped with bull bars are more likely to cause injuries to pedestrians than vehicles not so equipped.

Recently a number of plastic bull bars or styling-bars have been developed, and test results suggest that these are much safer for pedestrians, indeed vehicles fitted with them may be safer than without a bull bar fitted. Such products have only recently come onto the market, so all the bull bars in this accident study are likely to be traditional metal bull bar designs, and all references to and comments about 'bull bars' in this report should be taken as referring only to traditional metal bull bars.

This report first provides a review of the literature on the effects of bull bars. The numbers of accidents recorded as being bull bar accidents in the police survey, and the numbers of those for which copies of the accident reports have been requested and received from the police, are shown by type and severity. The police reporting rate is analysed. Pedestrian and two-wheeled vehicle accident cases, including some obtained from other sources, are analysed. Estimates are made of the proportions of pedestrian and two-wheeler rider casualties of each severity who would not have been injured at that severity had the bull bar not been present, and of the average number of additional injuries per casualty. Estimates are made of the probable numbers of pedestrian and two-wheeler rider casualties in Great Britain arising from accidents involving bull bar equipped vehicles, and hence of the probable numbers of additional casualties and injuries caused by the presence of the bull bar.

It is estimated that there may have been about 35 pedestrian and two-wheeler rider fatalities, and about 316 seriously injured casualties in accidents involving bull bar equipped vehicles in Great Britain in 1994. It is estimated that of these there were about 2 or 3 additional fatalities and about 40 additional serious casualties as a result of vehicles being equipped with bull bars. The small sample sizes of the study mean that all these estimates are subject to a large degree of uncertainty. The estimates of additional fatalities and serious casualties are more likely to be under-estimates than over-estimates.

The estimated benefit to those pedestrians who are currently hit by vehicles fitted with bull bars, that could be obtained if bull bars were not fitted, is a saving of 6 percent for fatalities and 21 percent for seriously injured casualties. These proportions are comparable with those anticipated from draft proposals for a directive on pedestrian protection by cars (11 percent and 26 percent respectively of those hit by cars).

In sixteen fatal pedestrian and two-wheeled vehicle accident cases studied in detail by TRL the estimated probability of survival had the bull bar not been fitted ranged from 40 percent to zero. It is the combination of all these probabilities which results in the estimates of 2 or 3 additional fatalities.


TRL Limited
Crowthorne House, Nine Mile Ride, Wokingham, Berkshire, RG40 3GA
+44 (0)1344 773131

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £74,000.00

Actual start date: 01 June 1995

Actual completion date: 31 December 1996


Report 243 - A Study of Accidents Involving Bull Bar Equipped Vehicles
Author: TRL Ltd
Publication date: 01/12/1996
ISBN: ISSN 0968-4107
Source: TRL Ltd

Summary of results

  1. Analysis of accident records showed that 2-3 fatalities, and about forty serious injuries, at a cost of some £6M a year caused by bull bars.