Most of us don’t really give opening a car door much thought. It is a simple operation that we probably do multiple times a day and it is just something that we do without planning it out in advance. As you are about to see, however, opening a car door the wrong way can end up causing serious injury to someone on the outside.
Approximately 36% of the people in the Netherlands use their bicycles as a primary means of transportation. That is not the case, however, in the United States and only about 10% of the population uses a bicycle to get from here to there. That leads to a rather interesting question:
Why are more cyclists in the United States injured compared to those in the Netherlands? This is something that happens every year.
In the United States, people tend to hear a lot about watching out for motorcycles. It is a good idea to watch for motorcycles but unfortunately, most people forget about watching for bicycles. What may surprise you is the fact that your vehicle doesn’t need to be in motion in order for a bicyclist to get injured.
One of the more common injuries that happen to bicyclists is something that is known as ‘dooring’. This issue takes place when a cyclist is riding along and somebody opens a car door in front of them. You might think that it rarely ever happened but in major metropolitan areas, such as New York City, it happens frequently. After all, bicycles and cars are sharing the same roads and there is very little room for error.
A study was done in Chicago in 2011. Approximately one bicycle crash every day or about 20% of all bicycle crashes occurred when somebody opened their car door and it ended up right in the path of a cyclist.
When the streets are crowded and a car door is opened out of the blue, the bicyclist is left with very few options. They have to make a choice if they are going to pull into traffic and run the risk of being run over or if they are going to hit the car door. That is, of course, if they even have time to react at all.
It is not only those who are driving a vehicle in major cities, it is also those who are riding in taxicabs. Over 300,000 people use a cab every day in New York City, and that is a significant number of people that could cause an injury to somebody riding a bike on the same road.
Some major cities, such as Chicago and New York make the person opening the vehicle door responsible for the accident. In doing so, they have reduced the number of accidents but there still needs to be more awareness of the potential.
36-year-old Dana Laird is an example of what can happen with dooring. She was riding a bike in Cambridge, Massachusetts when an SUV door opened in front of her. In an effort to miss the door, she swerved and ended up being struck by a transit bus. She lost her life as a result of the accident.
There were two people impacted as a result of the accident that day; the driver of the SUV and the bicyclist.
The Dutch seem to have a good idea and it is helping to save lives in that country. Close your eyes and imagine that you are sitting behind the wheel or in a passenger seat of the vehicle. Now think about what you would do when you exited the vehicle.
Which of your hands would reach for the door? More than likely, it is the closest hand and it allows your body to continue facing forward while the door is open. By making the simple change of using your opposite hand, it forces you to turn your body and to see behind you with your peripheral vision. It also is a reminder that you should look back and see if there are any bicyclists coming.
This maneuver is so popular that it is now known as the ‘Dutch reach.’ Admittedly, cycling is much more popular in that country but the Dutch reach is so ingrained into the society that it is rare for anyone to open the door with the hand closest to it.
The next time you open the car door, take a moment to practice the Dutch reach. Make it a habit and it just could save a life.