The Dutch Reach and Learning to Use Your Other Hand for Safety

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act makes it a punishable offence to open the door of a car on a city street or highway without first making sure that doing so will not endanger a person or interfere with the movement of another car. It is also an offence to leave the door of a car on the side of traffic for any longer than it is necessary to load or unload passengers.

A person who breaks the laws governing the opening of car doors can face a fine of anywhere from $300 – $1,000. Worse, opening a car door into another person can result in life-altering injuries that can lead to a lawsuit being brought against the owner of the car, the opener of the door, or both.

We can teach ourselves to better check that we are opening our car doors safely by employing a technique known as “The Dutch Reach”. In the Netherlands, where there are an abundance of cyclists sharing streets with cars, drivers and passengers are taught to open their doors using the hand that is farther away from the handle. Using the hand that is farther away from the handle requires a person to pivot their entire upper body before opening a door.

The benefit of The Dutch Reach is that this pivot manoeuvre improves the possibility of seeing what is approaching over their shoulder. Using The Dutch Reach also increases the odds of seeing someone approaching in a car mirror.

It may take a while for The Dutch Reach to become habitual, but learning to use your other hand to open a car door could help you avoid a costly fine or worse.

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