Dooring accidents are one of the most common types of bicycle collisions. A dooring accident usually involves a driver or passenger of a motor vehicle opening the car door without looking behind the vehicle. A bicyclist who is approaching the vehicle may not have time to stop and ends up colliding with the car door.
Although this scenario may sound simple, it can cause very serious, and sometimes even fatal, injuries to the bicyclist. Fortunately, there are ways motorists and cyclists can minimize the risk of experiencing a dooring accident.
How can you prevent dooring someone?
Motorists and their passengers can prevent this type of accident by using the far hand reach technique. This preventative measure is well-known in parts of Europe, where people also call it “the Dutch reach.” However, this technique remains mostly unknown in the United States.
The far hand reach technique involves the motorist opening the car door with the hand that is positioned furthest from the door. For example, if a driver wanted to exit the vehicle, he would use his right hand to reach across his body toward the handle.
When a motorist uses this method, his or her body naturally turns. This natural turn makes it easier and more instinctual to look behind the vehicle and look in the mirror for oncoming traffic. This method helps motorists break bad habits and make a routine of safe ones.
How can you avoid being doored?
As you bicycle, you should always remain vigilant of your surroundings, but sometimes this isn’t enough to prevent an accident. This is why it is also important to know when to take the lane. Taking the lane at the appropriate time can prevent a variety of collisions, including dooring accidents.
As a bicyclist, you must ride with traffic and as far to the right as practicable when bike lanes are not available. However, riding as far right as practicable, does not necessarily mean as far right as you can. It is only practicable if you can be safe from obstacles that may be in your path and safe from traffic.
When it is not practicable to ride on the right side, it may be reasonable for you to travel in the same lane as traffic. This is called “taking the lane.”
Although you can ride next to parked cars, it is important to be very alert. Try to notice which cars have people inside because those people could open a car door at any moment. Usually, it’s safer ride a car door’s width away from parked cars. If this puts you too close to other traffic, you may need to take the lane to avoid a hazardous situation.
Other situations when it may be safest to take the lane, include if you:
- Are traveling at the same speed as motorized traffic
- Must pass a vehicle that is traveling in the same direction as you
- Are preparing to make a left turn
- Need to avoid a hazard
- Are traveling in a lane that is too narrow to safely share side-by-side with a vehicle
Collisions between bicycles and motorized vehicles can be very serious, even if the motorized vehicle was not moving. If you were injured in a dooring accident or other bicycle collision, it is important to be sure you understand your rights. It may be reasonable to seek compensation for your medical costs or other related expenses.