It’s the name of a simple manoeuvre that, if widely adopted by vehicle users, could save prevent serious injury to powered and self-powered cyclists and, The Corner believes, should become part of the car driving-test examination.
It could also avoid your car door being torn off by a passing 22-wheeler.
By LES STEPHENSON
(Anybody with influence out there reading this – the South African Transport Minister perhaps? The Automobile Association?
And it is so, so, simple – The Corner read about it in a feature in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, so we’ll pass it on to you…
TAKING UP EMPTY SPACE…
Here’s the situation… you’ve found a parking slot on the street, possibly a busy city-centre street but it doesn’t have to be, and carefully reversed into it. You’ve grabbed your cellphone/handbag/jacket and, like nine out of 10 drivers, just open your door and are about to step out…
What happens next is either paragraph 4 (above) or a cyclist or motor-cyclist is passing and collides at lesser speed with the car door that is occupying space which a second earlier had been the open road.
Some damn fool did it to our motorcyclist editor (Les Stephenson) some years ago in Johannesburg and the open edge of the door chopped clean through his right knee and sent his Honda Bol d’Or 900 in another adjacent car. No, he’s fine now, thank you, after some slick bone surgery and three months on crutches.
HERE’S HOW YOU GO DUTCH
So, how do YOU open your driver’s (or, if in the other seat, passenger) door? Yeah, you grab the door release with fingers on your right hand if driving (left is a passenger), give it a tug, and push the door open with your right shoulder (readers in left-hand drive countries, of course, use the opposite appendages).
What DIDN’T you do? Look over the relevant shoulder to make sure no vehicle (or, if a passenger, no pedestrian) is about to pass. Even using the car’s external mirror might not suffice.
Which is where the Dutch Reach comes in… it originated 50 years ago in (no prizes for guessing where!) the Netherlands, and involves opening a car door with the hand FURTHEST from that door.
DUTCH KIDS TAUGHT IT AT SCHOOL
Well, try it in YOUR car and you’ll realise that doing so AUTOMATICALLY means you can see BEHIND the car and notice that the 22-wheeler is about to take your door off or you’re an instant from sending a cyclist caroming into the passing traffic.
In the Netherlands ‘the reach’ is taught to children both in school and by their parents.
It’s also a required section of the driving test and has become a pillar to groups campaigning to put an end to “dooring” – the rather literal name that describes when a cyclist is knocked off by an opening car door.
It was most recently in the news in Britain thanks to a careless Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, who sent a 35-year-old cyclist flying when he exited his ministerial car without looking.
Statistically, “dooring” caused 474 crashes across the UK in 2015 and caused the death of many cyclists around the world (as of 2013, 25 dead, according to Bicyclesafe.com), including Sam Boulton, a teacher knocked into the path of van on his 26th birthday.
PUT IT IN THE SA DRIVING TEST
Sam Jones, from Cycling UK, told the Daily Telegraph in England: “We know of families who have lost loved ones because somebody just opened a car door. It’s been a big issue for us for a long time.
“It’s safer not only for cyclists but also motorcyclists, or someone jogging or walking with a pram. Cycling UK is keen for the Dutch Reach to be part of a THINK! Campaign, and is pressing cycling minister Andrew Jones to help promote it as well as including it in driving tests.
Carman’s Corner is now doing the same and we’d ask other motoring websites, magazines and even newspapers to do the same.
“Sometimes the most simple ideas, make the most sense,” says Nick Lloyd, British RoSPA’s road-safety manager.“Many cyclists will have experienced the problem. RoSPA it will be making its 10 000 driving instructors members make the Dutch Reach part of the process of learning to drive.”
LEGAL AND MEDICAL DAMAGES AT STAKE
And, here in South Africa, we believe it is illegal carelessly to simply open a vehicle’s door. If you do cause an accident, you could even be sued by the injured party of hisher medical aid.
Whatever, do it next time you park on the street, even in your driveway, in a car park (covered or not) or indeed get into the habit of doing the Dutch Read every time you get out of a vehicle.
That goes for rear passengers, front or rear, too. Drive safe!