Companies who require workers to drive passenger or light commercial vehicles in rural or remote areas may consider fitting bull or roo bars.

Often, this is driven by the perception that in a crash the bar will help prevent damage to the vehicle and injury to the occupants. The jury, or in this case the research, is out on that front. Similarly, whether drivers may ‘let their guard down’ because of the presence of a bar is a topic for debate. What is unequivocal, though, is that being involved in a crash with a bar-equipped vehicle leads to worse injury outcomes for pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles.

So is there an alternative to fitting a bull or roo bar to keep your people safe? The answer is yes, and it lies in preventing the condition rather than treating the symptoms.

Quantifying the risk

Claims data from two major Australian insurers confirms dusk and dawn are the most dangerous times of day for animal strikes.

An analysis by one insurer of two major clients, who have 4,500 vehicles across a mix of vehicle types, showed the highest number of animal strike claims were from early morning collisions, following by the evening, with dawn and dusk accounting for two-thirds of such claims.

These findings are consistent with figures from another major insurer, which showed 5am-7am is the most frequent time of day for animal strike claims, followed by the equivalent time in the evening. This suggests journey planning is the most effective measure to avoid animal strikes.

Choosing the risk

Planning driver journeys should be a core safety management task for all organisations. To avoid animal strikes, such planning can help drivers avoid being on the road during ‘animal peak hour’ or in areas with high animal traffic.

If avoiding times or areas is not possible, journey planning allows high risk areas to be identified, alerting drivers to the increased risk and importance of employing other strategies to reduce the likelihood of animal strikes. These include being alert and scanning road sides for signs of animal movement and, most importantly, reducing speed.

Imagine this scenario: a kangaroo hops out from behind the trees 10 car lengths ahead on a typical two-lane country road. At 100kmh, with typical alert reaction times and stopping distances, we will hit the animal at 77kmh. If we had been travelling at 80kmh instead of 100kmh, our speed when we reach the animal will be just 30kmh, and there’s a reasonable chance it will have cleared our lane or turned back anyway.

The irony, of course, is that the times our animal friends are most active are when us humans are often least alert. What the debate around animal strikes and bull or roo bars comes down to is that in this case we, as organisations or as drivers, can choose the level of risk we’re comfortable with.

Click here for more information on avoiding animal strikes, including a Tool Box Talk. This Thought Leadership piece also looks at the issues around fitting bull or roo bars and positive and negative impacts on safety of different road users.

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