How the Dutch Reach Can Reduce Bicycling Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA“) estimates that more than 50,000 cyclists suffer injuries every year, with more than 700 of those resulting in fatalities. Cyclists who regularly ride in traffic can take every precaution to prevent collisions with motorized vehicles, yet those collisions continue to happen as motorists get distracted or fail to notice the presence of a cyclist around their vehicles. At least one category of car-cyclist collisions can be reduced or prevented if motorists were to practice the Dutch reach when exiting their parked vehicles.

As the name implies, the Dutch reach originated in the Netherlands, where cycling is so deeply ingrained in the national culture that more than 30% of the population uses bicycles for their daily commutes. Dutch motorists who have parked their vehicles along the roadside have been trained to open their doors with their right hands. This forces them to reach across their bodies, which then causes them to turn their torsos and heads over to their left side. While looking left, the parked motorist then has a better opportunity to look behind his car to see if any cyclists might be passing the car while he is opening the door.

Drivers in the United States know to glance into their rear view mirrors to see if any cars are coming, but the limited range of sight in a rearview mirror will not always reveal a cyclist who might be riding past the car. If the driver does not see the cyclist, he might open the door directly into the cyclist’s path, causing the cyclist to collide with the open driver’s side car door. If American drivers practiced the Dutch reach, the frequency of this type of cycling accident in the United States would be dramatically reduced.

The American car culture does not always adapt itself well to the type of behavioral changes represented by the Dutch reach. Cyclists can pave the way for more widespread use of the Dutch reach in the United States by practicing it themselves and by encouraging non-cycling friends to practice it.

The Dutch reach can reduce the frequency of cycling accidents, but it will not altogether prevent them. Lightly-protected cyclists are no match for careless and distracted motorists and heavy cars and car doors. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Gary Brustin in California are active advocates for the cycling lifestyle. When cyclists are injured in collisions with cars, we help them recover the largest damages awards available to compensate them for their injuries and the value of their damaged cycling equipment. If you have been in a cycling accident, please contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss how we can assist you to recover the damages that may be owed to you.