Grilles Kill

Dec 27 2014

I live in Texas, the land of grille guards, also known as bull bars. They look like this …


… and they are stupid and immoral.

While they’re marketed as safety devices, they actually make you less safe. Grille guards interfere with the crumple zones that absorb impact during a crash. Here’s an excerpt from a 2012 study:

The literature reviewed in this study indicates that vehicles fitted with bull bars, particularly those without deformable padding, concentrate crash forces over a smaller area of vulnerable road users during collisions compared to vehicles not fitted with a bull bar. Rigid bull bars, such as those made from steel or aluminum, stiffen the front end of vehicles and interfere with the vital shock absorption systems designed in vehicle fronts.

Rather than protecting yourself and your family, what you’re doing is making it more likely that you and they will be injured in a collision. That’s stupid.

They also increase the likelihood that you will injure other people. The grille guards I see — and I see them all the freaking time — are almost always attached to the front of enormous SUVs or tricked-out pickups. These vehicles sit higher off the ground than your average boring sedan, which alters the so-called point of impact. Here’s why that’s a problem:

SUVs based on truck platforms [...] can ride up and over smaller cars, rather than engaging a car where it can most protect its passengers.

Grille guards only exacerbate this issue. Your vehicle is higher off the ground and it’s weaponized with multiple steel bars on the front.

That’s terrible if you hit another car. It’s even worse if you hit a pedestrian. From that same 2012 study:

These devices therefore significantly alter the collision dynamics of vehicles, resulting in an increased risk of pedestrian injury and mortality in crashes.

You’re more likely to kill people that you hit. That’s immoral.

Bull bars were invented in Australia, where they’re called roo bars because, when people drive in the outback, they often run into kangaroos. If you’re planning to drive across vast stretches of wilderness, where you’re certain not to encounter children chasing a ball into the street or a nice old lady making a left turn in a Honda Accord, grille guards might make sense.

But come on. Every shiny Ford F-150 I see parked at the Whole Foods near my house has a grille guard. Just because you wear boots and listen to Blake Shelton doesn’t mean you’re a cowboy roaming the range. What you’re doing is grabbing a container of Nancy’s Organic Yogurt before picking up your kid from dance class.

Nothing wrong with that. Go ahead and accept it.

Here’s what a 2002 book on SUVs says:

Grille guards are almost exclusively fashion accessories, and they are killers.

The author of that book advocates banning grille guards in cities. I second that.

Europe has already banned grille guards, except for plastic kind which protect your bumper without disabling your vehicle’s safety features or increasing potential harm to others.

Sometimes Europe is right about stuff. This is one of those times.

To repeat: Grille guards are stupid and immoral. When you install one on your vehicle, it doesn’t make you more like a real cowboy. It makes you more like a real jackass.

So I call upon my fellow Texans, and everyone else everywhere, to remove your grille guards. No one is forcing you because they are (unfortunately) still legal in the United States but, as Blake Shelton once sang, it’d sure be cool if you did.

(the end)