If you are a motorcyclist or bicyclist, you probably live in fear of dooring. Dooring accidents are painful and dangerous — and entirely preventable.
What is dooring?
Dooring is when an unobservant car driver suddenly opens his or her door into the path of a bicycle or motorcycle. Needless to say, dooring accidents are dangerous for the biker, hard to avoid or predict, and likely to cause injury.
How dangerous is dooring?
It is difficult to estimate the true prevalence of dooring accidents because in most places they are simply recorded as a collision between a cyclist and a car. Where these types of accidents are specified, however, we can see that dooring accidents are quite dangerous. In 2011, the city of Chicago reported that 19.7% of cycling injuries, a total of 344 incidents, were caused by a cyclist crashing into a car door. Dooring was found to be responsible for 11.9% of cycling injuries in Toronto and 8% of serious injuries to cyclists in London. In New York City between 1996 and 2005, the deaths of 7 cyclists were caused by injuries sustained in dooring accidents.
How to Avoid Dooring
From the perspective of a bicyclist or motorcyclist, it is difficult if not nearly impossible to avoid dooring accidents. If you’re riding along a line of parked cars, many of which have darkly tinted windows, it is clearly very hard to see or be able to predict when just one of those car doors is suddenly going to open right in front of you. The best way to avoid these accidents is to get as much distance between you and the parked cars as you can. Needless to say, if you’re riding in a bike lane or the road lane closest to the curb, it is difficult to stay too far out of the line of fire.
Fortunately, it is much easier for car drivers to avoid dooring accidents. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t pay a lot of attention to what’s behind them when they open their car door to get out, and motorcycles and bicycles are much smaller, and therefore easier to overlook than cars are even if they are looking. It is incumbent upon car drivers to check their surroundings before opening a car door. Unfortunately, this can be easier said than done.
Another possible solution to the problem is automated systems in cars that can detect the presence of oncoming obstacles and warn the driver or passenger before the door is opened, or in some cases, disable the door from opening until the obstacle is clear.
The Dutch Reach Method
The most effective method of avoiding dooring accidents is to get drivers in the habit of checking behind them before opening a car door. To this end, there has been an effort to promote what is called Dutch Reach. This method involves making one simple change to how you open your car door. Rather than reaching for the door handle as you naturally would, you simply train yourself to use the opposite hand instead. This method forces you to turn towards the side and back of your car before you open the door, making it easier to spot oncoming bicyclists or motorcyclists. It also puts the side view mirror more directly in your line of vision, thus making it easier to check behind you. Reaching across in this manner also makes it harder to open the car door suddenly and forcefully.