It can happen at any time, and always when you least expect it. But the “Dutch reach” virtually eliminates the possibility – and can save lives.
So what is the Dutch reach?
Well, driving home after an afternoon of running errands I was passing a row of parked cars. There was plenty of room for both our car and the car approaching from the other direction, but to be on the safe side I slowed down and kept well over to my side of the road.
Bang! The driver of one of the parked cars opened her door. Clearly she hadn’t seen me and the near side wing mirror of our car slammed into the rear edge of her door. Half a second earlier and it would have been the front wing of our car – which would have driven her door into the wing and door frame and probably written her car off as a total loss.
As it is I now have to go through the hassle of claiming against her insurance for a new mirror and housing and she’ll lose her no-claims bonus and have to pay her excess. Her husband told her it was my fault because if I hadn’t been driving up the road the incident would not have taken place – but good luck with that argument.
So what about the Dutch reach?
Have you noticed how as you get older it gets harder to twist your neck round to check for oncoming traffic in your blind spot?
Well, quite simply in Holland drivers are taught to open a car door with the wrong hand, so in England the Dutch reach means that you reach across to open the driver’s side door with your left hand. (And you open the passenger side doors with your right hand.)
In doing so, you automatically twist your upper body and shoulders round so it is much easier to see what’s coming up behind you – cars, cyclists or motorbikes.
Unfortunately there is not a single English video showing the technique, so the only youtube I could find with a right hand drive vehicle was from Australia – well worth watching:
Driver’s in Holland are taught the “Dutch reach” as part of their driving test syllabus, and you only have to try it once to be converted. So how can it be that such a simple and zero cost idea that also saves lives has not been promoted more actively in the UK?
Our very own Department for Transport poured cold water on the idea even after the then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling sent a cyclist flying in exactly the same circumstances. This incident was later described as a “unfortunate accident”. You couldn’t make it up.
In 2016 a cyclist was killed after a taxi passenger opened the door without looking properly. The passenger was subsequently fined £80.00. But the family have still not come to terms with their loss.
So, while the Department for Transport are debating what to do next, I hope you will remember the Dutch reach next time you open a car door. It could save a life, or your mirror.
I will – in future.
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