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Are you and your family using the Dutch Reach?

The Dutch Reach is a technique used in the Netherlands to keep bicyclists safe from "dooring accidents." A dooring accident happens when a vehicle driver or passenger opens a car door into the path of a bicyclist. These accidents have caused numerous deaths and catastrophic injuries to bicyclists throughout the country. However, they can be prevented in virtually all cases when drivers and passengers adopt the habit of using the Dutch Reach.

The Dutch Reach is a simple maneuver that involves the driver or passenger opening his or her car door with the hand on the opposite side of the door. It works like this:

  1. Reach across your body with your far hand to grab the handle of your door.
  2. As you reach, your body will automatically twist to make it easier for you to look behind you to see if any bicyclists are approaching from behind.
  3. As you gingerly open the vehicle door, continue to look behind you before you open it all the way. If there's a bicyclist approaching, you will see him or her and have the chance to wait until the bicyclist passes. This will ensure that no one gets hurt when you open the door.

In the Netherlands, parents teach their children the Dutch Reach from an early age, and practice and repetition make the maneuver a habit. This is not a habit you will learn overnight. In fact, it could take some time before you automatically remember to use the Dutch Reach every time you open the door.

In the first weeks that you start to use the technique, consider tying a ribbon on your steering wheel, or putting a sticker somewhere you'll see it as a reminder. Also, every time you stop your car -- no matter where you park it -- practice the Dutch Reach five times before opening the car door to build the habit faster.

Once you build this habit into your daily routine, you'll gain a great sense of satisfaction knowing you're doing your small part to prevent a bicycle accident. You'll also have less of a chance of being targeted in a personal injury lawsuit for negligently opening your door into the path of a bicyclist.

Source: Dutch Reach Project, "Dutch Reach Review Article," accessed May 31, 2018

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