Have you ever been riding down the road and someone unexpectedly throws their car door open just as you are approaching? While this typically happens to cyclists, where there are narrow roads it happens to car drivers as well.

If on a bike, you could possibly go flying into the opened door of the parked car. To say that would hurt is an understatement. More likely, you’ll veer further into traffic which could cause other complications for you or the moving vehicles ahead of and behind you. If in a car, swerving or clipping the parked car’s open door could also cause substantial damage, though your physical being will most likely be less mangled than if on a bike.

Such an instance is known as “dooring” or getting “doored” – running into a car door that unexpectedly flies open just as you are about to pass. The culprit is typically an inattentive car occupant who fails to look over his left shoulder or into the side mirror before opening the door to see if any car or bicyclist is approaching.

It might be tempting to suggest that cyclists and cars pass parallel parked cars at a distance that is safely out of the way of any potentially opening door. However, that is not practical due to traffic moving in both directions and sometimes narrow roads. Instead, when emerging from your parked car, take time to look back before popping open the door. The same goes for entering your car. Instead of walking up and jumping in without taking notice of approaching traffic, take a second and look around. Let any line of cars or bikes pass before opening your door. And when you do open it, get in or out quickly.

Laws & rules

Here are a few other tips to help drivers be more conscientious when opening their car doors into traffic:

When getting into or out of a parked car, you should:

These tips will help make the roads safer for cyclists, other drivers, you, and your car.

There are also laws in some countries relating to dooring. For those in parked cars, it is prohibited to open a car door, to leave a car door open, or to get out of the car without having taken the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of other road users. Cyclists, too, and other drivers also have a lawful responsibility to maintain control of their vehicle and be able to slow down or stop if an obstacle unexpectedly appears (such as a door that suddenly opens).

But laws should not be the primary way to ensure safety. A more effective solution is to raise the awareness of the dangers of mindlessly opening car doors into traffic. Actually, avoiding such instances takes just a little thought and concern for others. That is the type of cultural change that transcends the punitive, blaming, and monetary punishment of laws.

With increasing traffic and an often increasing amount of cyclists, dooring incidents are more likely to occur. And even if there aren’t many of these types of accidents, the fact that people have to swerve to avoid doors opened by unaware drivers heightens their frustration and anger, thereby causing unneeded stress.

That’s a recipe for another potential disaster as they continue down the road.

By Dan Franch, August 2014.