An official order, dated December 7, 2017, issued by the Union Ministry of Road, Transport & Highways (MORTH) which stated ban on bull bars and terming them 'illegal' created brouhaha among the auto aficionados of the nation. First things first, bull bars have been showered with immense love by the Indian people and they can be seen at the front fascia of almost every car, especially SUVs. Besides lending a rugged and robust appearance to the vehicle, bull bars are believed to be protecting the front bumper of the vehicle. Such was the scale of popularity of bull bars among the auto enthusiasts that even a few manufacturers started their sale themselves with the vehicle. Lets decode the theory that led to the banning of bull bars in India and discuss whether it was a correct step.
First and foremost, the Section 52 of Motor Vehicles Act says, "No owner of a motor vehicle shall so alter the vehicle that the particulars contained in the certificate of registration are at variance with those originally specified by the manufacturer”. Well, generally the auto companies do not commence the homologation process of a new car/SUV with bull bars being the part of standard fitment, instead they are being offered as an after-market accessory. Hence, it automatically makes them an illegal equipment. Although, there is a plethora of after-market products on offer but the Union Government of India has singled out bull bars as an unauthorized fitment.
Today, while sipping my evening tea, I was speaking to an acquaintance, who owns a transport business about this infamous ban on bull bars by the Indian Government. He told me a different story altogether which left me astounded. To begin with, he said that the Government has done the right thing by banning bull bars, albeit a bit too late. His point was that illegal liquor mafia, goons and scoundrels have used bull bars to their advantage very well. Just so you know, bull bars cause maximum harm to pedestrians, even upto the extent of instant death upon collision. So, the point here is that in most of the hit-and-run cases, the accused get the bull bars removed after hitting a person in order to leave no trace and evidence for the alleged crime.
It was truly an eye opener for me, maybe the Government smelled this nuisance, but however didn't find it appropriate to list it as one of the reasons to ban bull bars. Furthermore, I was informed that the cost of bull bars in small cars is nearly Rs 3000-3500, while for the larger sedans and SUVs it is approx Rs 6000-7000. As a matter of fact, they can be installed and removed fairly easily from the front bumper. The intensity of the impact is tremendously high as a frontal collision with a pedestrian even at the speed of 20-30kmph can result in immediate death. So, mostly people involved in crimes like murder and thuggery tend to install bull bars on their vehicles.
Moving forward, as almost everyone is aware, all the new cars being launched not just in India but globally undergo a safety testing process. The frontal and side impact crash tests are conducted in order to determine the safety of passengers and driver. The point to be noted here is that they are being tested in the absence of bull bars. The auto companies design the front fascia in such a manner that in case of an accident the causalities and fatalities are minimum. Hence, they install crumple zones at the front end to absorb the impact in case of a collision. However, if the bull bars are added, then the crumple zones become completely ineffective as they transmit the impact to the occupants, resulting in serious injuries or even death. They might protect the front bumper but at the cost of several lives, which is really unacceptable.
I was recently speaking to some senior officials of a big automaker regarding this decision of Indian government and they seemed to be in total agreement with it. I was told that not only the bull bars make crumple zones ineffective but they also obstruct the functioning of airbags. The vehicle with bull bars, in case of an accident, might not have airbags deployed at all, or even if they eventually deploy, it would be too late. It was found that bull bars cause problems for the airbag sensors, which leads to this situation. Hence, several automakers and even insurance companies, with stringent safety policies, doesn't approve of bull bars as an accessory.
As we can notice around, several countries are already urging automakers to develop friendly cars for various other road users such as cyclists, bikers and auto-rickshaws. Some governments have gone ahead and even drafted laws for this cause. The best example here is Volvo, the Swedish luxury automaker, which is offering a pedestrian airbag just to protect the lives of other people who walk on roads. But one can easily guess if an individual installs bull bars on the Volvo, will the pedestrian airbag deploy in case of a frontal crash and save the life of an individual walking on the road. Hence, this is also one of the reasons that bull bars must not exist.
I personally do not have much of an idea but a handful of elderly and knowledgeable folks have also told me that bull bars damage the chassis of a vehicle in case of a major accident. It's not just the chassis of vehicle that had bull bars installed but also the chassis of vehicle which collided also gets damaged. I was also being told that occupants in the vehicle colliding also face the wrath of bull bars as more force is transmitted which results in lethal injuries. The fact is simple: no impact is absorbed by crumple zones and no airbags are deployed due to the presence of bull bars, therefore the damage is maximized. So, in my honest opinion, bull bars are nothing but a dangerous tool which consumes lives.
The carmakers invest a mammoth sum in the development of a new product and before the launch, it is tested for numerous kilometers at different terrains in a variety of weathers. In fact, the car companies consider safety of the occupants as paramount and hence, several safety tests are conducted to ensure well-being. Hence, if an individual installs the bull bars, the safety is compromised and the vehicle itself as well as the people on the road such as bikers and pedestrians are vulnerable to serious damage. People, while installing the bull bars, have a thought that they are safe-guarding their vehicle from any potential threat but contrary to their belief, they are putting the lives of individuals around them in serious danger.
I totally applaud this decision by the Indian government and appeal to fellow countrymen that they should abide by this new law framed by the Ministry of Road, Transport & Highways (MORTH). The car owners should be made aware of the drawbacks of bull bars and the shop-keepers still illegally retailing bull bars should be dealt with strictest punishment. Several other countries, taking a leaf out of India's book, should also ban the bull bars immediately. This is the only way forward to a safer future!
Image Source: Team-BHP