3 minute read
Ever heard of dooring or the Dutch reach but not exactly sure what they mean? You’re not the only one, so let’s get straight into it.
Dooring occurs when a vehicle occupant, usually the driver, opens their door directly into the path of another road user. While the term dooring is more commonly used in relation to cyclists, it can affect all road users including pedestrians and motorcyclists.
The impact of being hit by a door opening can lead to serious injury, but the aftermath of dooring can go beyond the car door hitting the road user. When a vehicle occupant opens their door into the path of an oncoming cyclist, the cyclist may be forced to swerve in order to avoid being hit, leading to a potentially fatal collision with a third vehicle.
Annually, cyclists make up around 3% of road fatalities and 15% of road hospitalisations1. The National Road Safety Partnership Program (NRSPP) says that drivers opening their doors without looking for cyclists is the third most common cause of bicycle crashes in Australia2.
Dooring is a serious issue as cyclists can rarely predict it will happen and furthermore do not have the same protection as a driver would have.
According to the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE), around 85% of reported cyclist casualty crashes involve another vehicle3. The Victorian government recorded 726 car dooring crashes involving bicycle riders between July 2014 and June 2019, one of these was a fatal crash and 207 were serious injuries4.
What is the Dutch reach then?
The Dutch reach is a method vehicle occupants can use to minimise the chances of dooring. Introduced in the Netherlands in the 1970’s, it has since become common practice in many countries. This method requires the driver or vehicle occupant to use the hand furthest away from the door handle when opening the door. By doing this, the person twists their upper body, increasing their ability to see any oncoming cyclists or road users that may be in their blind spots.
While the Dutch reach may not be a foolproof method, it ensures a higher chance that vehicle occupants will actively look and spot any dangers before opening their door.
Despite being widely used across many European countries and its popularity internationally, a 2019 survey by Ford Australia showed that less than 5% of Australian drivers knew what the Dutch reach was5 . Since then, there has been more of a push towards safer cycling by the government and fellow not-for-profit organisations advocating cyclist safety.
Is the Dutch reach enforceable in Australia?
Although there have been government campaigns along with many cycling advocates and groups lobbying for and raising awareness of the Dutch Method, it is not enforceable by law. While the Dutch reach may not be enforceable, many Australian driving instructors support and encourage the method and believe it should be widely adopted. The Dutch reach is also included in the official driver handbooks of some states in Australia.
However, it is a punishable offence to create a hazard to other road users by opening a vehicle door.
According to Australian Road Rule 269(3), which is consistent across all states and territories, “A person must not cause a hazard to any person or vehicle by opening a door of a vehicle, leaving a door of a vehicle open, or getting off, or out of, a vehicle.”6
So, it is an offence if by opening a car door you are posing harm to other road users with fines varying across states. It is therefore the driver’s responsibility to check that when they open their doors, they do not endanger anyone.
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