British car drivers will be forced to use the ‘Dutch reach’ method to open one of the car doors. The new measure is one of the eleven new driving rules due to be added to the Highway Code and comes into force from Saturday. And things are getting serious across the channel: offenders pay a £1 000 fine (about 1 200 euros). But what exactly is the ‘Dutch reach’?
The point is that drivers (or passengers) who want to step out of the car will be legally forced to use the hand that is furthest away from the door handle. This means that motorists in the UK, where cars ride on the left side of the road and drivers sit on the right side of the car, would need to use their left hand. The passenger next to him has to use his right hand.
But why, for heaven’s sake, such bizarre movements? Because using the ‘opposite’ hand forces driver and passenger to swivel and look over their shoulder. This way, they automatically have a better view of upcoming traffic, especially cyclists.
In Belgium and the Netherlands, for instance, where the method is not integrated into the traffic regulation, it would be just the opposite. Motorists in these countries drive on the right side of the road but the driver sits on the left. So the driver would need to use his right hand, and the passenger next to him, his left.
Habit to get used to
The UK annually registers several hundreds of accidents in which cyclists get injured by crashing against open car doors. The British will have to get used to the rule, but once they’ll get the hang, the number of such accidents will go down drastically.
The practice is well-known in several other European countries, but why is it called the ‘Dutch’ reach? The Dutch probably never heard of it. Maybe other countries ‘suppose’ the method is a Dutch ‘invention’, given Holland’s reputation as a cycling-friendly country..?