Why Should You Always Open Your Car Door With Your Right Hand?

Whenever you parallel park your car on a busy city street, it’s common to forget that cyclists share the same street side with you. One swing of the door at any unlucky moment could mean a cyclist getting struck by it, in addition to a resulting injury and potential lawsuit. However, there is a way to curtail the possibility of striking someone with your car door and all it takes is switching the hand you normally open your door with.

“Dooring” accidents are more common than you think

In a crash test conducted by the insurers' accident researchers, a crash test dummy on a bicycle crashes into an open door of a parked car - a so-called dooring accident
In a crash test conducted by the insurers’ accident researchers, a crash test dummy on a bicycle crashes into an open door of a parked car – a so-called dooring accident. | (Photo by Guido Kirchner/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Cyclists getting struck by car doors is such an issue in this country that there is even a term for it: Dooring. In 2011 alone, there were 344 dooring accidents recorded in the city of Chicago, which means that there was almost one per day, reports We Love Cycling. Dooring can also kill people too, as there were seven dooring-related deaths in New York City from 1996 to 2005, and three cyclists died from it in 2019. According to Reader’s Digest, New York City is aiming to raise awareness with a “Look! For Cyclists” sticker on all of its 13,000 taxi cabs.

The “Dutch Reach” can save lives

Fortunately, there is another way that we can all proactively save cyclists from any dooring accidents. It’s called the “Dutch Reach,” and all it requires is that you (as the driver) open the car door with your right hand.

The logic behind this technique is that when you’re sitting in your car’s driver’s seat, you’re more likely to open the car door with your left hand since it’s closest to it. However, this could likely lead to a dooring accident, since you might forget to check for any cyclists.

But if you reach over and open it with your right hand, then the simple motion of reaching over and pivoting your torso toward the street will make it easier to check for any approaching cyclists or pedestrians. And in case you’re wondering, this technique is aptly named because the tip was invented in the Netherlands. Here’s a visual demonstration of the “Dutch Reach.”

Should passengers do the Dutch Reach?

A man opens the door of his car.
A man opens the door of his car. | (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Absolutely! If you have a rear-seat passenger that needs to open their door toward the street, then it’s important for them to employ the Dutch Reach as well. It might seem a little unorthodox at first since we’re typically used to opening the car with our left hand, but it can save lives in the long run.

It’s such a simple concept, but it works. In fact, it works so well that the Dutch have been doing it for decades. There’s even a whole movement at Dutchreach.org, which stresses the importance of incorporating the Dutch Reach into your daily life, or at least when you park on the street. They’re looking to get the word out about opening the door with your right hand and to “teach the reach” that there are even slogans for it. Our favorite one is: “Reach, Swivel, Look, Open.” Of course, just telling people to open the door with their right hand is much easier.

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