Many Australian drivers fit bullbars to their vehicles, especially if they plan to drive in rural parts of the country. Bullbars can protect your truck or ute during a collision with an animal or a tree, reducing the chances of damage to the vehicle that could leave you stranded in the bush. However, a bullbar can also pose a safety hazard to pedestrians and other drivers. Learn more about the law in Victoria, and find out what can happen if you don't comply with the regulations.
Do you need a bullbar?
Drivers install bullbars for various reasons. Many drivers like bullbars because they believe they can:
- Cut the risk of damage to their vehicle in a collision.
- Lower the risk of injury to the vehicle's occupants during a serious accident.
- Improve the styling of their vehicle.
Whether a bullbar improves your styling or not is really a matter of personal taste, but the safety benefits of these devices during a collision can vary.
A bullbar can cut the risk of damage in a low-speed accident, but at higher speeds, these devices can actually increase the risk and severity of injuries, especially if you install one after you buy the car. In these cases, the bullbar can interfere with the design of the car, and you may not benefit from crumple zones during a collision. As such, in a high-speed accident, a bullbar could actually make things worse for you.
Can you fit bullbars to your vehicle?
In Victoria, strict laws apply to bullbars on vehicles. The law allows drivers to install these safety devices, but the bullbar must meet various requirements. Primarily, the bullbar design must comply with the requirements of sections 1, 2 and 3.1 of the Australian Standard AS 4876.1 2002. The bullbar must also comply fully with VicRoads regulations.
Under these regulations, various design rules apply. Bullbars must:
- Follow the shape of the vehicle.
- Not have protrusions or sharp edges.
- Not obstruct the driver's vision.
- Not pose a danger to other road users.
- Not affect the vehicle's light performance.
What's more, the vehicle's manufacturer must certify that the bullbar is suitable for the make and model concerned. The bullbar must also not interfere with any airbag's timing mechanism. With such stringent regulations, it's generally a good idea to speak to an authorised dealer and arrange a professional installation of a bullbar.
What are the penalties for an illegal bullbar?
If you install a bullbar that does not comply with regulations in Victoria, you could face a penalty for using a vehicle that is unsafe or has been modified or does not comply with the standards for registration under the Road Safety (Vehicles) Regulations 2009. VicRoads published a full list of offenses online, but this offense (number 2143) carries a penalty of 2.5 units.
The cost of a penalty unit increases annually with inflation. From 1 July 2016 until 30 June 2017, one unit costs $155.46, which means an offense worth 2.5 units will cost you $388.65. Penalty units can also affect your insurance premium at renewal, so the real cost is often higher. What's more, if you cause or exacerbate an accident, another driver may sue you.
Why would another driver sue you if you have a bullbar?
A non-compliant bullbar could cause serious injuries in a collision, especially for the occupants of other vehicles. For example, in a side-impact collision, your bullbar is more likely to cause serious injuries, especially in a 4WD with a bullbar, as the vehicle will impact the other car higher up. This is more likely to cause head and chest injuries.
If you collide with another car, the other driver could sue you for compensation as a direct result of the injuries your bullbar causes. Your compulsory third-party insurer is unlikely to pay a claim if you install a bullbar that does not comply with the law. In this case, you could face an expensive legal bill that could cause financial ruin.
A bullbar will change your vehicle's styling, but these devices can also pose a serious safety hazard. Talk with car accident lawyers or other professionals to make sure you comply with Victorian law, or you could face life-changing legal action.