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Dooring can injure or kill cyclists - Fines quadrupled in B.C. for 'dooring' cyclists
By: Deutschmann Personal Injury & Disability Law (Lawyers) | Published 10/19/2020
Dooring occurs when a cyclist is hit by a car door that opens into their path. This usually happens by accident as a result of carelessness by the car driver or passenger. The individual is parked at the side of the road and tries to get out of their car without checking for traffic coming along beside the car. When they swing the door open the cyclist usually doesn’t have time to swerve, or cannot swerve due to there being traffic on the road.
Cyclists that are doored can be extremely seriously injured, even killed, and are also subject to being hit by another car once they are laying on the road. In Ontario under our Automobile Insurance Scheme cyclists injured in car crashes can access car insurance benefits regardless of who is at fault in the collision, and regardless of whether the cyclist themselves has auto insurance.
The benefits are called no-fault car insurance benefits – accident benefits. They provide for medical and rehabilitation benefits and include services not covered by OHIP like physiotherapy, medications, concussion therapy, massage therapy and even income replacement benefits if you are unable to work due to your injuries.
Depending on how the accident happens you may also be able to sue the driver for additional benefits. Generally, if you are a cyclist and a car door is opened directly into your path it is up to you to prove you were injured, not to prove who is at fault.
If you have been injured in any car-cyclist accident you should contact a lawyer to ensure you get the benefits you deserve to recover from your injuries.
In Ontario dooring is taken very seriously and the MTO states that,
"The penalties for improper opening of a vehicle door (for driver or passenger) are a set fine of $300.00 upon conviction and three demerit points. The total payable fine is $365.00 ($300 set fine plus $60 victim fine surcharge and $5 court costs). Drivers who choose to contest the charge could be subject to a fine up to $1,000 and three demerit points, upon conviction.”
British Columbia has followed suit taking the fines from $81 o $368 for anyone opening a door of a parked car when it is not reasonably safe to do so.
Drivers can do their part to make the road safer for cyclists.
Safety experts recommend car passengers and drivers use the “Dutch Reach” when opening car doors. From the Dutchreach.org website here are the detailed instructions for properly opening the door of a parked car:
- Turn off ignition, set brake, release seat belt.
- Check both outside and inside rear-view mirrors for vehicles & cyclists in back and in adjacent bike or travel lanes.
- Using hand further from door, Reach across to door latch. [Note: This forces upper body & head to turn outward; the near hand habit does not cause rotation.]
- Mid-swivel, again Check side/wing mirror. [Note: Near hand habit does not induce side-mirror use.]
- Twist further, look out the side & back over outer shoulder for oncoming road users. [Note: Near hand habit again encourages neither. In fact using near hand on latch cripples shoulder-check as it freezes the outer shoulder. This blocks torso rotation. One's turned head & eyes cannot twist further to get the view directly back.]
- Still vigilant for oncoming traffic, Unlatch door but keep hand grasped upon handle.
- If safe, with near hand now assisting, Open door a few inches & lean slightly out to gain a clear, unobstructed view back for approaching traffic.
[Note: On this point multiple advantages result --
- Reaching across ones body to operate the latch and open the door automatically curbs sudden, wide or flung opening. This habituated safety gain over the near hand push or thrust habit is immense -- and vastly under-appreciated: Few people can push or shove a door wide open using the far arm. And no one can if their far-hand latch grip is kept hold. But a near-hand push or shove allows and even encourages door throwing.
- Fast, flung, ambush opening startles or completely blindsides cyclists. Too often it results in grave harm. A handlebar nick can crash the bicyclist and throw them into the roadway. A direct hard impact of bike or body, or desperate swerving with loss of control too often cause violent crashes. Cyclists can be impaled by the door's edge or crash into or even be tossed over the obstructing door wall. Even without loss of control a quick swerve to avoid direct dooring puts the cyclist in path of vehicles and can prove fatal.
c) Far hand on door latch and near hand on armrest retain one's ability to retract door quickly, or prevent a gust of wind from blowing it open - which can also damage the door.
- Window, door frame & 'B' pillar no longer limit the exiting person's view back as they then lean slightly out and look directly back for oncoming cyclists through the now slightly opened door.
- The side mirror alone cannot provide full safety. In addition to misadjustment, blind spots, glare, darkness, compromising dirt or water, etc., once a motorist shifts or turns their head or, if the side mirror is door-mounted and the door then opened, its view back is completely lost. Some side mirrors now include a small convex secondary mirror which, though distorting, may help. However the continuous, unobstructed direct view back encouraged and achievable by the Reach method provides the most assured view, and does so just when the decision to open for exit is to be made.
- The Reach method is especially needed for rear passengers. For they lack all mirrors. Likewise, the inside rear view mirror serves only the driver - and is useless for front passengers.
- Slow partial opening can warn cyclists & may allow time to yell and cause the operator to retract the door as their hands still control it. This nudge warning gives a cyclist chance to brake or more safely steer to avoid harm.
- Slight initial opening also allows cyclists more safe space to maneuver and reduce swerve risk.
- All clear? Open slowly. Remain vigilant. Avoid full opening if not required. Exit facing traffic, ready to retreat if needed. Close door as soon as possible. [Note: With far hand still on door latch, drivers & passengers naturally exit facing back. Near hand habit positions motorists to exit facing forward, their back to oncoming traffic. Also, with door still held during exit, occupants are less likely to release and open door to its widest extent - a practice which should be discouraged unless necessary.]
- Still facing traffic, walk around back of vehicle to gain sidewalk. [Note: The Reach thus guides all vehicle occupants to exit more safely onto and then off the roadway.]