Doing the Dutch Reach in Illinois

The “Dutch Reach” is a method of opening the car door that can prevent accidents with passing cyclists and pedestrians. This door opening method is now included in driving manuals and driver’s safety exams in Illinois. This simple change in behavior could have a big impact on the number of bicycle accidents in the state.

The “Dutch Reach”

Known as the Dutch Reach, it is a basic maneuver that requires individuals to use their right hand to open doors on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The maneuver originated in the Netherlands where there are more bicycles per capita than any other place in the world. While it is not an official law or suggestion, it is a habit that Dutch motorists have developed over the past century.

The Dutch Reach is simple to do. If the individual is on the passenger side of a vehicle, the maneuver uses the left hand to open the car door. Using the hand furthest from the door forces motorists and passengers to look over their shoulder when they exit the vehicle.

This makes it possible for people to see an oncoming cyclist, pedestrian, or vehicle before they open the door. This helps protect the cyclist or pedestrian from injuries, keeps drivers and passengers out of the path of oncoming cyclists, and it helps protect the door from damage.

A European Habit Goes Global

While Illinois and Massachusetts are the only two states that include the maneuver in driver training manuals, it is taught in more than 38 countries and 28 languages. Most of these are nations where bicycles and motor vehicles are in constant, close, and often perilous proximity.

Essentially, following the rules of the road helps motorists limit their risk of striking or “dooring” a passing cyclist or pedestrian. Other driving habits that can help reduce the risk of striking a cyclist include paying close attention at crosswalks, coming to a complete stop at stop signs, and not parking in bike lanes. This is especially important in the summer months when young children are out of school and a significant number of adults commute to and from work in Chicago on their bicycles.