Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, has today (11 Sept 2017) called for greater public awareness of the dangers of “car dooring”. Figures released by the Dept of Transport to Cycling UK show that between 2011 and 2015 3,118 people were injured, including 8 fatalities, as a consequence of car doors being carelessly opened in the path of a cyclist, pedestrian or motorcyclist. Cycling UK Chief Executive, Paul Tuohy, has written to the Transport Minister, Jesse Norman MP, to highlight this serious problem and calling for a public awareness THINK campaign aimed at all car occupants, including passengers, to look carefully before opening car doors.
The “Dutch Reach” method of opening a car door is advocated by Cycling UK. This involves using your opposite hand to reach for the handle making it more natural to look behind before opening the car door and also limiting how far the door opens. This system works well in the Netherlands.
Section 239 of the Highway Code states “You must ensure that you do not hit anyone when you open your door – check for cyclists or other traffic”.
Prosecutions for “car dooring” can be brought under section 105 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986.
Failure to comply with the regulations is a criminal offence, but the maximum sentence is only a £1,000 fine or penalty notice. A seriously injured cyclist or a bereaved family are unlikely to regard this as adequate punishment.
There are surprisingly few prosecutions under the Regulations even though carelessness does not have to be proved, nor does injury, loss or damage. It simply needs to be proved that opening the door caused danger. This raises the question why there are not more prosecutions? Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, was not prosecuted following his car dooring of cyclist Jaiqi Liu outside the Houses of Parliament last year.
In August 2012 cyclist Sam Harding was killed when Kenan Aydogdu opened his car door in front of Harding in Holloway Road, London. Given that the limited penalty under the Regulations Aydogdu was also prosecuted for ‘manslaughter’. He was acquitted even though his windows being coated with dark plastic film, reducing visibility in and out of the car to 17% of their normal level. He was fined just £200 for the car-dooring offence.
Cycling UK is right to raise public awareness of this problem and to encourage the Dept of Transport to launch a safety campaign. The law needs to be reformed to introduce tougher penalties and the Police/CPS need to bring more prosecutions.
Visit our Cycling page for more information about your eligibility to claim after a cycling accident.
A car Dooring Case Study
Our client was cycling along a village road when the defendant opened her car door, without warning, into the path of our client’s bicycle. Our client, who was not wearing a helmet, collided with the door of the vehicle and fell from her bicycle which resulted in her sustaining a severe brain injury, skull fractures, swelling of her brain and bleed to her right temporal lobe, as well as soft tissue injuries. Our client was taken to hospital by air ambulance and, despite the serious nature of her injuries, she was discharged 4 days later into the care of her family.