What is the Dutch Reach?
The Dutch Reach is a simple method of opening a car door with the hand furthest away from the door. In a right-hand-drive car, the driver should use their left hand and for passengers the right hand should be used.
It originated 50 years ago in the Netherlands and many cycle charities believe that if adopted in the UK it could help save lives as well as prevent injuries.
How does it work?
By reaching over across your body with the hand furthest from the door results in the following:
- It forces the person opening the door to look over their shoulder for oncoming vehicles and cyclists.
- It is much more difficult for the door to be flung open quickly.
- The door won’t be opened as wide allowing a slightly larger gap for passing vehicles and cyclists.
“Dooring” – A Criminal Offence
Dooring is a traffic collision where a cyclist is struck by a car door.
The responsibility lies with the driver to ensure that it is safe for the passengers to exit the vehicle.
Section 239 of the Highway Code states: “You must ensure that you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic”. The Road Traffic Act states that, “No person shall open, or cause or permit to be opened, any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person.”
Dooring is a criminal offence and could result in a £1,000 fine or a penalty notice. Many will argue that tougher penalties need to be introduced. Dooring is treated as a minor offence even though people have been killed or seriously injured from this careless act.
Prosecutions can be brought against drivers under section 5 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. There are surprisingly few prosecutions even though carelessness does not need to be proved, only that opening the car door caused danger. It is an offence to put someone’s life in danger. For example opening a car door that does not result in a collision as the cyclist was able to serve out the way is still an offence.
Many will recall the incident last October involving Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, who knocked a cyclist off their bike when he opened the door of his ministerial car into the cyclist’s path. Mr Grayling failed to exchange details with the cyclist and he was not prosecuted either for this offence.
Dooring is surprisingly common and yet to date it receives little attention. Accidents can be caused by cyclists colliding directly with a car door or swerving to avoid being hit by a car door.
I have also recently represented a cyclist who sustained a number of serious injuries after being knocked off his bike when a driver opened their car door into his path leaving him no time to stop or swerve to avoid the accident. Fortunately, my Client made a good recovery and recovered compensation for both his injuries as well as his damaged bike, helmet and clothing.
The Dutch Reach
Dooring is a common and careless act. Adopting this simple approach of opening a car door using the hand furthest away from the door forces the individual to look over their shoulder for oncoming traffic. This simple act will help to reduce the number of injuries and deaths on our roads as a result of dooring.