A cycling group wants a door-opening technique called the ‘Dutch Reach’ to be taught to new drivers to help save lives on British roads.
The manoeuvre, which is a mandatory part of Dutch driving tests, involves the driver or passenger on the right-hand side of the car opening the door with the left hand - forcing them to turn and see if anyone’s approaching.
Between 2011 and 2015 eight people were killed and 3108 injured in accidents involving vehicle doors being opened or closed ‘negligently’, Department for Transport figures show. Five of the fatalities involved cyclists who featured in 2009 of the incidents.
Cycling UK believes that these figures “are not fully representative” of the scale of the problem, as not all ‘car dooring’ incidents are attended by the police, and on Monday launched a public awareness campaign.
In a letter to Transport Minister, Jesse Norman, Cycling UK chief executive Paul Tuohy called for a public awareness THINK campaign aimed at all car occupants, not just drivers, to look before opening their door.
Issues around cycling and road safety were widely debated last month after Charlie Alliston was cleared of manslaughter over the death of Kim Briggs, but convicted of the lesser charge of “wanton and furious driving”.
Briggs, 44, died in hospital a week after being struck by the then 19-year-old who was riding a bike with no front brakes.
The case led to Briggs’ husband, Matthew, calling for a “radical change” in cycling culture and for cycling to be included in the Road Traffic Act so riders can be charged in the same way motorists are.
“Some people seem to see ‘car-dooring’ as a bit of a joke, but it’s not and can have serious consequences,” Tuohy said.
“Cycling UK wants to see greater awareness made about the dangers of opening your car door negligently, and people to be encouraged to look before they open.
“In the Netherlands they are known for practicing a method, known sometimes as the ‘Dutch Reach’, which we think could be successfully encouraged in the UK. Cycling UK has written to the Department for Transport asking them to look into this, and highlight the dangers of ‘car-dooring’ through a public awareness THINK style campaign.”
Cycling UK has also warned cyclists to ride further into the carriageway, wants higher fines for careless door opening - the maximum fine for car-dooring is £1,000, even if the victim is killed - and to change the law to include an offence of ‘death or serious injury through negligently opening a car door’.
The Department for Transport has reportedly said it will consider new messages on cycle safety.
A video of the ‘Dutch Reach’ technique has been seen by more than two million times on YouTube.
Cycling Uk’s ideas have been supported by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite, who according to the BBC has said: “This simple step seems like a good way of checking that a cyclist is not approaching and reducing the risk of ‘dooring’, particularly in a congested city.”
The Department for Transport previously dismissed the proposal - but that was just after the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was caught on video knocking a cyclist off his bike after opening his car door in an incident in later described as a “unfortunate accident”.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme on Monday Cycling UK’s Duncan Dollimore said precautions around opening car doors needed to be instilled in people from a young age, “like the ‘look and listen message before you cross the road’.
“Some times simple ideas have the capacity to save lives,” he said.
Jeff Boulton, whose Leicester school teacher son Sam died after a car-dooring incident on his birthday in July 2016, backed the initiative and recalled the tragic details surrounding his son’s death on the programme.
The case is still before the courts.
Sam Boulton died after being run over by a van after being struck by the rear door of a taxi.
The passenger who opened the door, Mandy Chapple, pleaded guilty and was fined £80, but the driver, Farook Yusuf Bhikhu, is appealing against his conviction claiming that he didn’t give Chapple permission to open his door.
The appeal is due to be heard at the Leicester Crown Court on September 22.
Jeff Boulton told the BBC: “It’s heart-breaking that an offence which has ended a life and caused untold trauma for my family be treated so lightly under current legislation.
“Until we have an appropriate offence in law, I call on the government to start investigating how they can better educate and train drivers about the dangers of car-dooring.”