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The "Dutch Reach": A Simple Practice to Improve Cyclist Safety

Cycling has become increasingly popular in California for its environmental and health benefits. However, accidents between cyclists and vehicles remain a tragically common occurrence. One simple practice that has gained attention for its effectiveness in preventing accidents is the "Dutch Reach." Despite its unusual name, this is a technique that anyone can implement to significantly improve road safety for cyclists in California.

So what exactly is the Dutch Reach? The Dutch Reach is a method of opening a car door that requires a driver or passenger to reach across their body with the hand farthest from the door. This movement forces the person to swivel their body, which naturally turns their head, allowing and reminding them to check for approaching cyclists before fully opening the door. Practicing the Dutch Reach can help prevent a common and dangerous form of collision known as "dooring," which occurs when a cyclist crashes into an abruptly opened car door.

Originating in the Netherlands, a country renowned for its cycling culture, the Dutch Reach has been taught in driver's education courses for decades. The Netherlands boasts one of the lowest rates of cycling accidents in the world, which is attributed, in part, to widespread awareness and practice of the Dutch Reach.

California cycling accident statistics reveal the importance of raising awareness of the Dutch Reach. In 2020, there were 455 reported bicycle fatalities in the United States, with California accounting for 137 of these deaths, the highest number in any state. Furthermore, research indicates that "dooring" incidents are responsible for up to 20% of urban cycling accidents, highlighting the importance of addressing this issue.

Being cautious of cyclists when opening your car doors isn’t just courteous. In California, this obligation is actually codified into the law. Specifically, California, Vehicle Code Section 22517 states that "No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of such traffic." So, avoiding dooring accidents also means avoiding potentially costly legal liability.

In conclusion, the Dutch Reach may have a quirky name, but its impact on road safety is undeniable. By understanding and practicing this simple technique, vehicle drivers and passengers can play a crucial role in reducing accidents and making our roads safer for everyone. So, next time you or your passengers exit your vehicle, remember the Dutch Reach – a small change that can make a big difference.


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