Editorial | Get accustomed to the term 'Dutch Reach'

Editorial | Get accustomed to the term 'Dutch Reach'

A new law requires the Illinois secretary of state to include in the 'Rules of the Road' information on the 'Dutch Reach' method of opening a vehicle door to avoid injuries to bicyclists. It also requires that the term be included in the pool of questions to obtain a driver's license.

If you drive a vehicle in Illinois, you'd better become familiar with the term "Dutch Reach" and what it means. Beginning next year, it will be required reading in the "Rules of the Road" publication (it's already in the latest version). It also will be required to be included in the pool of questions used for the written portion of the driver's license examination.

Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this month signed the legislation making the changes.

The "Dutch Reach" method of opening a car or truck door helps prevent what is called "dooring" — where a bicyclist, usually on a city street, either is struck or rides into a door that is suddenly opened by a motorist.

Here's how the current version of "The Rules of the Road" explains how to open a vehicle door on a busy urban street where bicyclists or other traffic is likely: "After parking and before opening vehicle doors, a motorist should first check for bicyclists. Drivers should consider reaching with their right hand to open the vehicle door as this gives them a better opportunity to check their surroundings for oncoming vehicles and bicyclists."

By reaching for the door with your right hand, it forces you to swivel your shoulders and head in the car seat and makes it easier to see anything coming up from behind your vehicle.

Illinois Department of Transportation data shows that injuries from "dooring" are on the rise in the state, particularly in urban areas like Champaign-Urbana. Chicago alone reported more than 300 "dooring" accidents in 2015.

"With more people riding bikes in communities across Illinois, these updates to the state's road manual and driver's license exam are sorely needed," said state Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, the chief sponsor of the law. "These changes will help people driving become more aware of bicyclists and teach them how to travel and exit their cars safely."

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