The dangers of dooring
‘Dooring’ is an accident which occurs when a passenger or driver of a car opens their door without looking properly and causes a cyclist to swerve or crash as a result. With growing numbers of cyclists and increasing levels of congestion in busy city centres, dooring has become a major cause of accidents as car passengers exit vehicles without due attention to those around them.
Indeed, the charity Cycling UK called for wider awareness of dooring earlier this year, as figures showed that between 2011 and 2015, there were 3108 people injured, eight fatally, because of vehicle doors being opened negligently.
So although dooring might seem likely to lead to relatively minor injuries, the figures above show that it can result in death or serious injury. This is certainly also true in our experience as keen cyclists and personal injury solicitors.
Associate Amie Prowle explains how dooring affected one of her clients, not only during the accident, but also in the aftermath:
“Our client was cycling past a car stopped at the side of the road. As he cycled past, the driver opened their door. Our client had no time to swerve, resulting in him hitting the door, flying over the top of the door and landing on his arm. As a result of the accident, our client suffered a fractured arm as well as grazing to his shoulders, left elbow and knee, and was admitted to A&E.
Following the accident, our client had difficulty with his left arm, which was now in a plaster cast, and experienced pain and discomfort for several weeks. After his cast was removed, he still needed assistance with transport as he was unable to cycle, and unable to take part in activities on holiday which the court took into account as loss of enjoyment.
Our client was also told to avoid contact sports for 10 weeks, and had difficulty playing the guitar as his left elbow remained stiff. He suffered scarring because of the accident, on his legs and elbow, although this would eventually disappear over time. We were able to settle the case for over £6,000 taking into account the injuries, loss of enjoyment, scarring to the body and the fact that full recovery took over a year.”
How to avoid dooring
So what can be done to improve road safety and reduce the number of dooring accidents?
There has been proven research into the ‘Dutch Reach’, where the far hand is used when opening car doors, so car occupants are positioned to look behind them by default as they exit the vehicle. This technique also limits how far the door can open, reducing the risk of cyclists hitting the door.
There are calls for this to be taught to school-children and to incorporate it into the UK driving test.
UK drivers also need to be aware that they are responsible for their passenger’s behaviour in this regard as well as their own. If a passenger opens a door in front of a cyclist, the car’s driver can still be held liable.
Finally, it almost goes without saying that the best way to avoid dooring is the same as for all other forms of road traffic accidents – look properly and be diligent in how you treat fellow road users.
How we can help
As specialist personal injury solicitors, we’re familiar with dooring cases, where a cyclist is injured because a car door has opened in their path.