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Is this a safer way to open your car door?

Campaigners are pushing for UK drivers to take up a new technique that could see drivers save lives based on how they reach for their door handle.

Responsible drivers stay aware of their surroundings at all times, even when parked. They understand that a lack of awareness could result in serious injury, perhaps even the death, of a fellow road user. For instance, "dooring" incidents, when the opening of a car door clashes with a passing cyclist, have the potential to be very serious, but some people are worried that not enough is being done to prevent such accidents occurring.

Although it sounds like a problem with an easy solution, the fact is, many drivers fail to make the essential checks before opening their car door. That's why, to help combat the problem and improve general road safety, campaigners are calling for the government to promote a new technique known as the "Dutch Reach".

As the name suggests, the technique originates from the Netherlands (a country with an excellent reputation for road safety – the country's estimated road traffic death rate per 100,000 population was 3.4 in 2015. The figure for USA was 10.6 and in Thailand it was 36.2*). Dutch learner drivers are taught the method when preparing for their driving test.

The technique is very simple: all it requires you to do is to open the car door with the hand furthest from the handle (left hand for the driver, right hand for the passenger). The idea is that this naturally causes you to twist your body towards the road, making your eye line cross your wing mirror and then on to the road itself. By simply using your other hand, you've made it easier to see any approaching cyclists, motorcyclists (who're at particularly high risk due to their speed), pedestrians, and other vehicles.

Cycling UK, a charity organisation promoting cyclist safety, wants the technique to be part of the Department for Transport's (DfT) THINK! Campaign. They have also asked Andrew Jones, the minister responsible for cycling, to introduce it into UK driving tests.

"What we are calling for is guidance and education about a life-saving technique," said Sam Jones, Cycling UK's campaigns and communications manager.

And it's not just Cycling UK who are championing the Dutch Reach. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has also started promoting it on their website.

However, Andrew Jones has announced that there will be no plans to implement the technique in lessons, announcing that he doesn't think the law should dictate which hand drivers should use to open their door.

But that's not to say there aren't benefits to the technique, and awareness of anything that could potentially reduce the risk of an accident is always a step in the right direction.

So, although it looks like the Dutch Reach method won't be enforceable by law anytime soon, there's nothing stopping you trying out the technique and seeing if it works for you. After all, it's important to always go the extra mile and do whatever you can to develop good driving habits.

When parked, it can sometimes be easy to let your guard down and open the door without looking, but you must always do the necessary checks until you're sure it's safe to step out. And remember to always open the door slowly and cautiously. You might just prevent a nasty accident.

Become a better driver with Coverbox

Another step you can take to improve road safety is getting black box insurance with Coverbox.

The telematics device, which is fitted in your car at the start of the policy, will record your data as a driver and, through regular updates via email and your Dashboard, let you know how you're driving, analysing both your good and bad habits. This allows you to see your mistakes and , hopefully, correct them. Demonstrating good driving behaviour could also help you get the best possible price on your premium at renewal.

Black box car insurance: continuously encouraging you to become a better, safer driver.


*World Health Organization: Global status report on road safety 2015