How the ‘Dutch reach’ can help you become a safer driver

Cyclist and car passing in a blur.

Published 5 June 2023
Last updated 9 August 2023

In this blog we look at the ‘Dutch reach’ technique. You’ll find out what it is and how you can use it to become a better driver.

If you’re a keen reader of this blog, you’ll know that last year we posted an article about the new ‘hierarchy of road users’ in The Highway Code.

In the same article we mentioned that there were other important changes to the code and encouraged you to look them up. Well, if you didn’t get the chance to do that, I am pleased to say that today’s post is all about one of those changes. It’s called the Dutch reach and using it can really help you manage your own safety and the safety of other road users.

Understanding Dutch reach

So, what is it? No, it’s not a housing estate near The Wash and neither is it a new type of cheese. It is, in fact, a way of opening the door of your car in a safe, controlled way.

Imagine that you’re parked on the left-hand side of the road, and you want to get out of your vehicle. The natural thing to do is to open the door with your right hand. After all it’s nearest to the door and you can almost open it on autopilot. The trouble with this method is that you can’t see what is behind you and immediately over your shoulder *unless* you look in your mirror first. And even if you do remember to look (c’mon, we’ve all forgotten from time to time) there could be a cyclist, a motorcyclist, a pedestrian or even a vehicle hidden in the blind spot of your mirror.

Dutch reach tackles this problem by getting drivers to use their opposite hand to open the door. In this case your left hand will be the furthest from the handle. This gives you the chance to check your mirrors and your blind spots for hazards approaching from behind.

Rule 239 of The Highway Code puts it like this: ‘where you are able to do so, you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side. This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. You are then more likely to avoid causing injury to cyclists or motorcyclists passing you on the road, or to people on the pavement.’

Double Dutch

The great thing is that this also works for passengers. If we add a passenger to our scenario then by using their right hand (which in this case is the hand furthest away from the door) they can check for pedestrians before they open it.

This bit of extra effort is well worth it. According to official statistics, each year 2 people die and more than 700 are injured by car doors. In fact, the Department for Transport has published figures that revealed 8 people died and 3,108 were injured in collisions with car door between 2011 and 2015.

Reaching for more

Dutch reach is just one of the recent changes to The Highway Code. If you’re learning to drive (or you haven’t read the code since you passed), then pop over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and get yourself a copy. It’s required reading for road users and an essential way of keeping up date with the latest rules of the road.

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