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Brussels, 26 May 2005

Pedestrian safety: Commission welcomes Parliament agreement on control of ‘bull-bars’

The European Commissioner responsible for enterprise and industry, Günter Verheugen, welcomed the European Parliament’s vote (first reading) on a Directive which will provide better control on the use of frontal protection systems, or ‘bull-bars’ as more commonly known. These controls will ensure an improved level of safety for those vulnerable road users. At the same time the Directive will also allow use of these systems where they can be proven to provide an improvement in safety levels when used on certain vehicles presently on Europe’s roads. The Directive has still to be approved by the Council of Ministers.

Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen said: “Better controlling bull bars will help to reduce injuries and fatalities of pedestrians, who are the most vulnerable road users.”

On a yearly basis there are as many as 47,000 fatalities and 1.7 million injuries on the roads of Europe. The Commission white paper of 2001 provided a goal for a reduction of 50% in fatalities by 2010 and issues of direct vehicle safety were one of the elements to bring this about. Over many years now, the safety of passenger vehicles has been steadily improving, but mainly with emphasis on the protection afforded for the vehicle occupant. In more recent times, certain attention has been directed to providing protection for the pedestrian and other vulnerable road users. The Directive on pedestrian protection of 2003 was the result of this consideration - and this latest Directive on the so-called ‘bull bars’ (those protection systems fitted below and above the bumper of certain vehicles) may be seen as an extension to the requirements expressed to provide increased safety to these road users.

Over many years much work was carried out on developing an understanding of the injuries sustained and the numbers of in accidents between passenger cars and pedestrians. In 2001 this resulted in a voluntary agreement presented by industry to improve the construction of vehicles and provide a more acceptable risk of injury to pedestrians when in collision with them. The agreement included an industry commitment not to fit vehicles with rigid ‘bull bars’. However, as a result of this agreement, and the Parliament’s request for legislation, a Directive was adopted in 2003, based on the content of the industry commitment. In addition to the requirements in this Directive there were other issues, such as the fitting of ‘bull bars’ which the Commission was requested to address.

Although it has been recognised that rigid ‘bull bar’ can provide protection to the vehicle occupants in collision at low speed with animals, vulnerable road-users run a greater risk of suffering more serious injuries with rigid bull bars than it would have been the case without ‘bull bars’.

The question of controlling the use of ‘bull-bars’ was one which the Commission reviewed and, as a result, made a proposal on which the present Directive is based. Consideration was initially given to a complete ban on the use of these items but it was also recognised that under certain circumstances there may be a level of injury reduction by the use of a frontal protection system. This is thus reflected in the formulation of the Directive. All Frontal Protection Systems intended for passenger cars (M1 vehicles) up to 3.5 tonnes and light duty trucks (N1 vehicles) will have to satisfy a number of tests including energy absorption, before they can be type-approved. It is expected that overall this will provide a definite improvement in risk levels for the average pedestrian in close contact with urban traffic.

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