While the origin of the bullbar is unknown, they are believed to have evolved in the bush, where the risk of hitting an animal is high. They also have a long tradition of use by people travelling in rural Australia. Bullbars are designed to protect the cooling system from damage in an accident, thus reducing the chances of being left stranded in a remote location.
While essential equipment in the bush, bullbars have become popular in urban settings. However, due to their high stiffness, unyielding characteristics (not energy absorbing) and small contact areas the risks outweigh the benefits. Bullbars pose a safety risk to traditionally vulnerable road users such as cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists, and smaller vehicles, as well as vehicle occupants. In the event of a crash, additional stiffness may cause airbags deploy later than when needed. If you are a metro driver, a nudge bar (which is much smaller than a bullbar but still protects your vehicle’s cooling system) is an excellent alternative.
In September 2002, the first Australian Standard for Motor Vehicle Frontal Protection Systems (aka bullbars) was published, aimed at reducing the risk of injury to pedestrians and passengers. The standard doesn’t ban bullbars or force their removal, rather it compels motorists to ensure their bullbars comply with recommended guidelines, including design standards such as tubular construction, materials, shape and size, and guidelines for fittings, lights, antennae, winches, fishing rod holders, etc.
If you’re sure you definitely need a bullbar, contact the vehicle manufacturer or a professional installer for advice.