The Dutch Reach is a simple technique of opening a car door that could save motorcyclists filtering through traffic from being “doored”. It should be mandated in driving tests as it is in Holland where it has been used for 50 years.
While the incidence of dooring is more common with cyclists, motorcycle riders also face the same dangers, especially when filtering in traffic next to parked cars.
Note that it is illegal to filtering between traffic and parked vehicles in most states yet remains a fairly common practice. Check the rules for your state at the end of this article.
What is the Dutch Reach?
The Dutch Reach is a way of opening car doors for drivers and passengers on the road side of the vehicle.
Instead of using the hand closest to the door, the driver or passenger simply uses their far hand (left hand in right-hand-drive countries and vice versa in left-hand-drive countries) to open the door.
This forces the driver or passenger to swivel their head and shoulders toward the door and window.
In this position, they are more likely to see approaching riders in the wing mirror or through the side window and prevent SMIDSY crashes (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You).
If they still don’t see you and open the door, they cannot open the door as far as they can with their near hand. This allows the rider more space to swerve around the open door.
It’s called the Dutch Reach because it has been taught in Dutch schools for more than half a century as part of their driver’s education course.
All learner drivers must use this technique to pass their driving test.
Call for Dutch Reach
Surely with our increasing traffic volumes, new lane filtering rules and increasing cycling traffic, it is about time the Dutch Reach is taught to drivers and mandated to achieve your driving licence.
The Dutch Reach is becoming popular in the UK and in the US there is a website called the Dutch Reach Project lobbying for the method to be used in American driving tests.
It suggests tying a ribbon on the door latch to remind you to use the other hand and look for riders.
VicRoads suggested the Dutch Reach in a 2012 ad campaign, but there is no mandate to teach it in Australian driving tests.
Instead, tell all your friends about this technique and it could just save your life.
Meanwhile, riders shouldn’t rely on others for their own safety but take a proactive stance and be wary of passing too close to parked vehicles.
As you approach a parked car, check for brake lights or indicators which should tell you whether they have just arrived in the parking spot or are about to leave.
Either way, they could be a threat.
Also, look in their wing mirror to see if there is anyone in the car.
If possible, always leave enough space between you and the vehicle for the door to open fully.
Even so, remember drivers can leap out of a car quickly and stand further out than the open door.