The British government is powerless to ban the fixture of potentially lethal bull bars to vehicles, because they have been approved by the EU.
Steven Norris MP, House of Commons, 19 April 1995
The Independent, 21 April 1995, p.9
Sunday Telegraph , 21 April 1995, p.17
This is not so, despite there being a number of EU Directives, within the framework for the type approval of motor vehicles (74/483/EEC), which set out the requirements for the external projections of motor vehicles. In fact national governments have three options should they wish to ban or restrict the use of bull bars.
Member States may place a temporary ban on the registration of vehicles that have been type- approved with bull bars. They can withhold consent for such vehicles, on the grounds of public safety, but only for a maximum of six months and both the European Commission and the exporting country must be notified of the reasons and the Member States concerned should endeavour to settle the dispute within the specified period.
Governments may ban the use of bull bars where the vehicle concerned was not type-approved with a bull bar or the vehicle is fitted with a bull bar different from the one fitted at type-approval.
On the basis of Article 36 they can outlaw the fitting of bull bars on vehicles with national type-approval, but only where bull bars comply with national requirements rather than the EU Directive on external projections.
There is a Commission Directive that bans sharp edges on the exterior of vehicles and ‘ornaments’. Specifically it requires that ‘the external surface of vehicles shall not exhibit, directed outwards, any pointed or sharp edges or any projections of such shape, dimensions, directions or hardness as to be likely to increase the risk of seriousness of bodily injury to a person hit by the external surface or brushing against it in the event of a collision’.
The Commission welcomes the British government’s commitment to make all vehicles ‘pedestrian friendly’ and has itself drafted a Directive which would amend the provisions relating to sharp edges to include hard surfaces, which would of course include bull bars. At the moment there is not a consensus among Member States for this proposal to be written into national law; the Commission intends however to pursue this issue with vigour since it is vital for the safety of both vehicles and pedestrians.
In 1996 the European Commission consulted its panel of experts on motor vehicles with regard the suitability of introducing requirements concerning the component type approval of bull bars into the Directive 74/483/EEC. The aim of this was to ensure that only non-aggressive ‘bull bars’ were placed on the market. Following on from this the Commission felt that the introduction of specific requirements relating solely to bull bars was not enough. Action taken at Community level to prevent the fitting of any bull bars that were likely to be dangerous would have to follow on from the application of more general rules that were intended to reduce the aggressiveness of vehicle front ends towards vulnerable road users, and in particular pedestrians, in the event of impact. In accordance with law making practice the intention would be to define minimum performance rules rather than propose a ban on specific devices. The Commission continues to pursue this issue with vigour seeing it as vital for the safety of both vehicles and pedestrians and hopes to be able to take action over the summer.