Blind eye to banned bull bars

SAFETY OFFENCE: A bull bar fitted to the car of East Singhbhum district statistics officer Jamuna Ram in Jamshedpur on Tuesday. (Animesh Sengupta)

Jamshedpur: The authorities may be on an overdrive against helmet-less bikers in the steel city, but are conveniently overlooking another glaring safety offence on roads: use of bull bars on cars and SUVs.

Bull bars, also known as crash guards, are a set of strong metal bars fixed to the front of a vehicle ostensibly to protect it from damage. But, the Union government recently banned its use because bull bars render a vehicle's in-built safety features ineffective.

While there are few takers for the ban, the East Singhbhum district transport office hasn't lifted a finger against offenders yet. If sources in the transport office are to be believed, four out of 10 cars flaunt bull bars in this city.

Jawaharlal Sharma, a human rights activist based in Sonari, said the crash guards didn't serve their purpose and, in addition, posed a threat to pedestrians and bikers. "It is more of a fashion statement than a safety feature. It is rather strange how the authorities are allowing such blatant violation of the Motor Vehicles Act," said Sharma.

The Union ministry of road transport and highways had cited contravention of Section 52 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, while banning bull bars on December 7 last year.

Section 52 says that 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".

Now, automobile manufacturers do not homologate cars with bull-bars, which means when an owner is getting this accessory fitted through the aftermarket, he's committing an illegal act, which can invite a penalty of Rs 1,000 for first offence and Rs 2,000 for subsequent offence.

According to district transport office data, nearly 6,000 four-wheelers are annually bought in the city and, going by what sources say, 40 per cent of them violate the law by installing bull bars.

District transport officer (DTO) Ravi Ranjan Vikram said they planned to crack the whip on offenders only after generating awareness. "We are aware of the Union government's ban and will take steps for a crackdown. But, before that, we plan to generate awareness among motorists about why bull bars are harmful," he said.

Here are a couple of reasons why bull bars should not be installed.

One, they make the crumple zones ineffective. Car makers invest millions on the crumple zones, such as bumpers, grilles, radiators, bonnet and other structural parts. When a bull bar is fitted, it can make these ineffective during a crash, transmitting force to the occupants of the car, causing serious injuries or even death.

Two, bull bars may also interfere with opening of airbags. Careful calculations govern the working of airbag sensors. Bull bars can cause airbags to deploy at the wrong time during a crash, or not deploy at all. Both scenarios can be very dangerous.

City SP Prabhat Kumar sounded as complacent as the DTO. "At the moment, we are focusing on helmet-less bikers and motorists without seat belts. However, we shall act against bull bars in the future," he said.


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