Drivers are being urged to open their car doors in a new and safer way after a spate of cyclists dying in horror crashes.
New research has found that 95 per cent of Australians are unaware of the ‘Dutch Reach’, a simple technique which avoids opening car doors into the path of cyclists.
Three Australian cyclists have died from ‘dooring’ incidents since 2010, which all occurred in Melbourne.
An overwhelming majority of 1,000 drivers surveyed were unaware of the Dutch Reach method, which involves opening car doors with the hand furthest from the handle.
The method forces drivers and passengers to look over their shoulder and behind to check for cyclists riding past.
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The Dutch Reach method (pictured) the safest way to open a car door to avoid injuring cyclists
Three cyclists have been killed from doorings, including Alberto Paulon (pictured) in 2015
Dutch Reach explained
The Dutch Reach refers to a method of opening your car door using the hand furthest from the door.
The action forces you to turn your body and look back over your shoulder for oncoming traffic, including cyclists.
Cyclist Alberto Paulon was killed after being ‘doored’ in Brunswick (scene pictured)
The Dutch Reach aims to reduce ‘doorings’ where car doors open in the path of oncoming cyclists.
The method was introduced in the Netherlands in the 1970s, which is now one of the world’s most cyclist-friendly nations.
There were 771 car doorings involving cyclists between 2011 and 2016, according to Victoria Roads, causing three deaths and 177 serious injuries.
University student James Cross, 22 was killed when he was doored by a dump truck in Hawthorn in 2010. The driver was not penalised or charged.
An unnamed cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, died from head injuries in May 2014 after he was doored in Highett.
A motorist was later convicted and fined $1200 over the incident.
Italian chef, Alberto Paulon, 25, was riding to work when he ricocheted off an open car door and under the wheels of a truck in Brunswick in March 2015.
The female driver was fined for illegally opening a car door into the path of an oncoming vehicle and was later ordered by the court to pay $1000.
Mr Cross’ death in 2010 promoted the Victorian government to double the on-the-spot fine for doorings to $352 and and increase the court-imposed penalty from $423 to $1,408.
The death of James Cross (pictured) in 2010 promoted the Victorian government to act
Ford’s Driving Skills For Life initiative is a free program is targeted at young drivers
But that’s not enough for Bicycle Network, which has called for on-the-spot and court penalties to be be doubled.
‘Police have previously failed to penalise infringements and infringement penalties in most state and territories are too low,’ Bicycle Network website states.
The Dutch Reach is one of skills emphasised by Ford in this year’s Driving Skills For Life program recently launched in Melbourne in an effort to reduce injuries from doorings.
Now in its fifth year, Ford’s free DSFS initiative aims to educate as many young drivers as possible to reduce the road toll as it continues to rise every year.
Eight cyclists have been killed so far this year in Victoria alone this year, already double than last year’s road toll.
The 2019 NSW road toll currently stands at 11, up from eight cyclists killed last year.
The program also aims to give insight into skills not normally taught by driving instructors.
‘This year’s program has a lot more focus on young drivers to be aware of their surroundings when sharing the road with cyclists,’ Ford chief executive Kay Hart told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Any loss of life demonstrates why the program is needed. Drivers need to be aware they share the road with everyone.’
The new research commissioned by Ford also found than half (53 per cent) of drivers surveyed admitted they’re not confident sharing the road with cyclists while 68 per cent of cyclists are concerned every time a vehicle passes them while on the road.
Alberto Paulon, 25 (left) was riding to work in Melbourne when he was fatally doored in 2015
Almost one third of drivers also admitted they didn’t know the ‘one metre’ distance rule between their vehicle and cyclists when travelling at 60 km/h.
Even more disturbing is that only half of drivers surveyed obey the one-metre rule, which is only a guideline in Victoria.
The one-metre rule is legislation in every other Australian state and territory.
The driver was not penalised or charged over the death of James Cross (pictured) in 2010
DSFL driving instructor James Stewart wants to change drivers’ attitudes towards cyclists.
‘There’s no love or courtesy on the roads anymore,’ he said.
‘That’s scary as driving is the most dangerous thing most people will do in their life every day. My advice to drivers is treat cyclists like a member of their family. They’re human beings, just like the rest of us.’
This is the second years the DSFL program has been held in partnership with the Amy Gillett Foundation.
The foundation began in 2005 after the death of Amy Gillett, who was killed by a motorist while training with the Australian women’s cycling team in Germany.
Donning distorting goggles while a wearing ‘drunk suit’ (pictured) shows young drivers how difficult it is to walk a straight line after several standard drinks
Participants also get practical experience on how to brake in slippery conditions
A former world champion junior rower, Gillett was ranked in the world top 100 in road cycling at the time.
One in five people injured on the road is a cyclist, a statistic Amy Gillett Foundation acting chief executive Marilyn Johnson wants to change.
‘The research revealed a lot of gaps when it comes to young drivers sharing the road with cyclists,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The message we want to get across is to look out for cyclists and give them room. We need to take better care of each other on the roads.’
Participants also get a real-world experience of slamming on the brakes at 60km/h to get a feel for the ABS brakes kicking in.
‘The brakes are your friend,’ Mr Stewart says.
Ford’s free program targeted at young drivers was recently launched in Melbourne
Participants also do a virtual simulation exercise in the eyes of a cyclist on busy roads
Program participants also take part in a virtual simulation of riding London streets as a cyclist.
They also get to wear a ‘drunk suit’ which mimics the effects of having alcohol in their system.
Students are strapped with weights and wear distorting goggles to get an eye opening insight just how basic motor skills are affected after several standard drinks.
The DSFL program was held in Melbourne and Geelong in recent weeks.
It will be held in Sydney this this year, along with Adelaide, Orange and Newcastle for the first time.
L-PLATER TAKES FORD COURSE
As a 30-something driver who will soon be on my Ps, attending a crash course of Ford’s Driving Skills For Life program for 2019 was an eye-opening insight.
Wearing the ‘drunk suit’ gave Daily Mail Australia reporter Kylie Stevens a sobering insight
Program instructor James Stewart raised awareness about techniques I had no idea about, despite countless hours of lessons behind the wheel with a driving instructor.
Like most Australians, I was unaware of the Dutch Reach, the safest way of opening of a car door to avoid injury to cyclists.
Not even my driving instructor had heard of the technique.
The course gave me a better appreciation of cyclists on the road, to be on a better lookout for riders and to remember to the one metre rule.
Being a cautious new driver, slamming on the brakes is something I usually try to avoid doing.
But slamming on the brakes at 60h/hr wasn’t as daunting as I thought it would be.
Not volunteering to be the first to to don the distorted googles and ‘drunk suit’ was a mistake.
Watching others before me struggle to walk a straight line was a sobering experience.
I already feared the worst when it was my time to don the suit which mimics the effects of having alcohol in their system.
Trying to walk a straight line through the eyes of a driver after just a few drinks was a daunting experience and makes you think twice about getting behind wheel with alcohol in your system.