How to Avoid Car Door Accidents

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The primary way we learn as adults and human beings is through experiences—learning how to do or not do something via mistakes or accidents—by not heeding some previously tendered good advice. More often than not, we learn something vitally crucial life lesson through close calls and near misses. Like avoiding a close-call accident through dumb luck.

Have you ever seen a movie where a driver opens their door and then a motorcyclist or bicyclist slams into the driver’s side door? This is known as a dooring accident. It’s hilarious when seen in a film. However, it’s horrifying when it occurs in real life. Someone could get killed or severely injured. Or, you could become entangled in lawsuits for years.

Also, keep in mind that in most states it’s the driver’s responsibility to open door safely if it is in the path of traffic. Trying to ascertain who is at fault will be the least of your problems in such situations. There is also the financial responsibility. Depending on the model of your car, it can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,500 to replace a car door.

About a week ago, I absentmindedly opened my car door into oncoming traffic. A bicyclist sped past my door at high speed about two or three seconds before my door fully opened. If I was just two or three seconds earlier in opening my door, a deadly dooring accident might have occurred. This is beyond obsessing about who is in the right or wrong. It’s about changing the mindset that a crash won’t happen to you.

Only one American state, Illinois, keeps statistics on dooring accidents. There were over 300 doorings in 2015. It’s a problem that most people won’t view as a problem until statistics worsen even more.

An advocacy group for driving safety in the Netherlands, the Dutch Reach Project, is endeavoring to enlighten drivers about the dangers of doorings. They keep statistics of dooring accidents all over the world. This advocacy group also wishes to spread the word about drivers adopting the “Dutch Reach,” method of opening car doors.

Imagine that you are sitting in your car and you want to get out. You intuitively would open the driver’s side door with your left hand. That means you are not looking behind you and are just assuming nothing terrible will happen. You will not see a cyclist or motorcyclist approaching as you open the driver’s side door until it is too late.

With the Dutch Reach method, you should always pivot your upper body to the left to open the driver’s side door. Meanwhile, use your right hand to open the door while looking in your rear-view mirror an/or side-view mirror. This method forces you to pivot your upper body to look in your side-view mirrors, behind you, and to be more aware of traffic conditions as you open your car door. Passengers on the left side can reverse this method if their car door opens into traffic.

In short, don’t use the hand nearest to the car door to open it. Use the hand farthest from the car door to ensure that your upper body pivots to check traffic, mirrors, and blind spots before you open the door. Learning this behavior can save you money, legal hassles, repair bills. And perhaps, save you from tragedy.

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