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Could Dutch Reach save motorcyclists?

Dutch Reach could save lives SMIDSY

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.Dutch Reach could save lives SMIDSY

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).

Dutch Reach could save lives SMIDSY
Driver can now see over their shoulder

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.

Dutch Reach could save lives SMIDSY
Door not open as far

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.

Rider checks

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.

Check your state’s lane filtering laws:


NSW and frequently asked questions

ACT and frequently asked questions

Victoria and frequently asked questions

South Australia

  1. If unable to do the Dutch reach you can also use the outside door handle so any approaching rider can see you are about to open the door. It also limits to amount you can swing it open initially.

  2. I may have blown my top at a driving instructor last year when reprimanded for using this technique because I “wasn’t looking in the mirror”. I was further marked down on my driving test for “excessive blind spot checks”. It was a challenge holding my tongue until my test pas certificate was in my hand at which point I let rip with the extent of my riding qualifications (Bikesafe, ERS, IAM and RoSPA) and whilst I have held off getting a cage until my mid 30s what is immediately apparent about the UK’s allegedly best in the world driver syllabus is it’s more concerned with being ‘correct’ than avoiding incidents by preemptive behaviour. Further repremands for changing my road position to give more room to a driver ‘creeping’ at a side road in line with Roadcraft advice for both riders and drivers did not improve my opinion of the DVSA.

    1. ” it’s more concerned with being ‘correct’ than avoiding incidents by preemptive behaviour.”

      We have a similar problem in Australia. Here the authorities are more concerned with enforcing the road rules than actual safety. Are the really so stupid that they can’t tell the difference? There are many situations when rigidly obeying the road rules makes riding more dangerous.

  3. Why would you be riding that close to parked cars in the first place? I know I wouldn’t and don’t.

    In the first picture the rider should have split the danger between the car and the road centreline before he got to the car. It’s all part of road craft and being proactive about your own safety on the road.

    How hard is to check you mirror before opening the door? I don’t want my car door taken off by a passing car etc. I don’t recall if it was dad or the driving instructor who taught me that one (1971 is a long time ago).

    1. Hi Alan,
      Agreed. Obviously you shouldn’t ride close to parked cars.
      Check our comments under the section “Rider checks” where we specifically point that riders should be proactive about their safety and not leave it up to others.
      The photos were a set-up purely for display, not a real incident.
      However, it can be very difficult for riders to have a safe gap from parked cars in many crowded cities.
      For example, in Sydney’s older suburbs with narrow streets, few homes have garages so cars are parked on both sides of the street. If you leave a metre gap, you may run into cars coming the other direction!

  4. Tried it out. Feels strange. I would not do it on a very windy day. Kind of on the fence about this technique.

  5. As a Dutchman I can honestly say that this has got a familiar ring to it. But I’ve also trained myself to look into the sidemirror (and over my shoulder in) when getting out of the car. It’s a safe way to use in windy conditions. At least it is if you use your other hand as well. Windgusts, or stronger than expected winds, aren’t nearly as dangerous for anyone passing, or your car itself! The door might try to get away, but it won’t. Not even to try and slam into your front tire.
    I Hold the door with my left hand (closest to the door) to hold the door and open it with my right (middle of the car, yes we drive on the right side of the road..). So it would be the other way around in the countries where you are required to drive on the left side of the road.

  6. I was a courier for 8 years in inner-western Brisbane. Busy, congested streets like Park Rd in Milton. Without realising it, I used the Dutch Reach when opening my door. Always, always checked mirror before opening the door, if clear then just crack the door from its gasket and check again – then slowly open, but still looking back. Never had a problem with motorcyclists, but cyclists were like kamikaze’s. }:-O.

    They rode along, hugging the cars doors, making them very hard to pick up in the mirror, and would then suddenly be beside me.

    I scored a couple even though the door was not even open by its own thickness. Caught their left side handlebar. Got all the usual abuse for deliberately dooring them but I couldn’t have been more careful.

    Be it riding or driving, I NEVER travel close to parked cars. Always to the rhs of the lane, or if there’s not enough room, go slow. People being people, they either open without looking, or let the door go too far when it first opens.

    To me, the term “dooring” has a deliberate intent about it; ie the person waits and watches then deliberately opens the door to impact a rider. No doubt, those mentalities are around, but I’ve not encountered them. For deliberate “dooring’ – jail time.

    Should the Dutch Reach be taught to new drivers (and existing drivers)? Yes!

    Riders NEED to be AWARE of their SURROUNDINGS and Take EXTRA CARE near Parked Cars and WHEN Filtering – I have had a couple of mates cleaned up by Car Drivers ‘Dooring’ them back in the 70’s – always kept me aware of the possibilities …..

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