From this weekend motorists are being encouraged to adopt the Dutch Reach technique as part of significant changes to the Highway Code.
The new advice comes as the Department for Transport updates the guide for all road users in an effort to improve road safety, especially for more vulnerable groups such as pedestrians and cyclists.
Among the changes are eight entirely new rules, mostly aimed at drivers and cyclists, which introduce a hierarchy of road users, and change the guidance on who has priority in certain situations.
The changes also bring updates to around 50 other rules, including Rule 239, which covers parking and exiting a vehicle. This now recommends drivers adopt the Dutch Reach technique to help protect cyclists.
The Dutch reach is a method of opening a car door that forces drivers and passengers to twist in their seat, reducing the chance of them opening their door into the path of a cyclist.
According to official figures, hundreds of cyclists are the victims of “dooring” every year but Cycling UK says the real numbers could be far higher as those figures only include incidents recorded by the police.
Dooring - or swerving to avoid it - can result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries, which is why the new Highway Code recommends vehicles users adopt the Dutch Reach.
How to do the Dutch Reach
The technique involves opening the car door with the hand furthest from the door. For drivers, that means reaching across your body with your left hand to open the door.
Doing so forces you to turn in your seat and will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. This means you are more likely to spot a cyclist, motorcyclist or scooter rider approaching from behind. It also lessens the chance of the door or driver being hit by another vehicle
Before doing this, you should check all your mirrors and safety charity Rospa recommends opening your door slowly at first, just in case you haven’t spotted someone approaching.
The updated code includes several other pieces of new guidance designed to improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse rides.
These include the introduction of a recommended safe overtaking distance and new advice on driving near cyclists on roundabouts.
Rule 613 has been updated to state that drivers should: “give motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211 to 215).”
It adds: “As a guide leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, and give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds. Pass horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 10 mph and allow at least 2 metres space. allow at least 2 metres space and keep to a low speed when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road (e.g. where there is no pavement). Take extra care and give more space when overtaking motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, horse drawn vehicles and pedestrians in bad weather (including high winds) and at night.”
Updates to Rule 186 also clarify that drivers should give priority to cyclists on roundabouts and not cut across their path. Rule 186 states: "Allow them to move across your path as they travel around the roundabout.
"Cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles may stay in the left-hand lane when they intend to continue across or around the roundabout. Drivers should take extra care when entering a roundabout to ensure that they do not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles in the left-hand lane, who are continuing around the roundabout."
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