Former Insurance Defense Attorney Turned Personal Injury Attorney

Could a simple swivel by drivers save cyclists' lives?

There is no doubt that Colorado cyclists face significant risks from distracted and negligent motorists. Most mean no intentional harm, but that is of little comfort to you as you're writhing in pain in the street — or worse.

One of the biggest hazards for cyclists is getting "doored" by an inattentive motorist. In many cases, these incidents are by no means minor. In fact, they can cause significant and disabling injuries which may or may not be permanent. If only there were a way to protect riders from this danger.

A European alternative

The Netherlands is a country of cyclists. As such, they have come up with a move known as the "Dutch reach" that reduces the risk of cyclists getting doored and injured.

The beauty of this safety measure lies in its utter simplicity. All drivers need to do is open their car doors with their right hands and not their left. Using the alternate hand and swiveling their bodies to reach the handle forces motorists to also turn their heads. That enables them to see approaching cyclists and avoid opening the door until they can safely do so.

Half a century of use has saved countless lives

In the Netherlands, drivers have been using the Dutch reach for more than 50 years. Schoolchildren are taught to do it from parents and also learn the maneuver in school.

Because drivers must know how to do it in order to pass the Dutch driving test, it is also a feature of drivers' education classes.

Jog your memory

Of course, since the Dutch reach has never caught on in the United States to the degree that it has in the Netherlands, motorists might need a physical memory boost to help them remember to switch hands when opening their car doors.

On of the simplest is to tie a ribbon onto the door handle. It serves as both a visual reminder and also a tactile sensation to alert you to quickly switch hands if you feel the ribbon in your left hand. Leave it on for a week or so until the habit becomes ingrained and part of your muscle memory. Your cyclist friends will thank you!

Those who wind up getting doored may need to seek legal guidance if they choose to file a claim for damages for their injuries, financial losses and other damages.

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