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Dooring Accidents involving At-Fault Passengers

Dooring Accidents in Boston

A dooring accident (not really an accident in the legal sense) occurs when a person inside a vehicle opens his or her door into the path of oncoming traffic. This can include oncoming motorists, bicycle riders and even pedestrians, though pedestrians are not usually traveling fast enough on foot to suffer significant personal injury.

bicycle accident lawyerIn Boston, and other parts of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, dooring is not only negligent, but it is also something for which a person can be issued a civil infraction in the amount of not more than $100 pursuant to Section 14 of Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws (M.G.L.).  In this section, the law clearly states no person shall open the door of a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with oncoming traffic, and the statute goes on to say this include bicyclists and pedestrians. This is the specific statute, which prohibits dooring a bike rider, and it was included as part of the legislatures efforts to improve bike safety in our area.

No Person Shall Open a Door on a Motor Vehicle If It will Interfere with Bicyclists

What makes this portion of the statute interesting aside from its progressive nature in terms of bike safety, is that it uses the term no person.  In many of the other clauses of this section, it says no operator of motor vehicle shall do certain things like follow a car too closely so as not to allow reasonable safe distance ahead (tailgating).  However, in this case statute uses the term no person.  This is needed, as as Boston bike crash attorneys can explain, because it does not necessarily have to be  the driver who opens the door into the path on an oncoming bike rider thus resulting in serious personal injury or death. It should be noted these accidents can be deadly and at least two people have been killed being doored in the Greater Boston area while riding their bikes in the past two years.

A passenger can be an adult or child who is a family member of the driver, or perhaps a friend. But it can also be a for hire passenger in a taxi cab or Uber type vehicle. There is generally a sign in cabs that you should always exit on the curb side of the vehicle, but passengers do not always listen to these warnings. It may also be that there is a curbside bike lane between to the vehicle and the curb so all passengers will be exiting on the curb side. If the passenger does not look to make sure the way is clear of oncoming bike riders in a bike lane, this can and often does result in serous personal injury to a bike rider.  We have seen cases where a bike rider hits the door directly and is hurt badly.  We have also seen cases where a bike rider hits the doors and flips over the door and is injured when he or she crashes into another vehicle or the road surface. There are also cases where rider is able to avoid the door, but this only results in the bike rider crashing into a parked car or moving vehicle, or otherwise losing control of his or her bike and being seriously injured in a crash.

An Example of How Passengers Can be Educated to Prevent Boston Dooring Crashes

While the Greater Boston area is more progressive than many other areas in terms of rider safety, Europe has many more people riding bikes to work and for recreational purposes due to greater concerns for the environment and much higher gas prices. So they have been thinking about ways to make biking safer for everyone for quite some time. However, even there, many people are killed by dooring accidents while riding a bike.

According to a recent news article from Leicestershire Live, two years after a bike rider was killed by being doored by a taxi passenger, the family and other bike safety advocates have launched a campaign to put signs about dooring in the backseat of every taxi cab in the area.  These signs say “Sam Says – Stop- Before you open the car door – Check for Cyclists.”  Sam is the name of the victim in the dooring accident two years ago involving a taxi passenger.

One thing to keep in mind is that while ignorance of the law is never a defense to negligence, dooring is often the result of people who have not been educated to look for bike riders before opening their door. Again, this is not an excuse for negligence, and doesn’t mean injured rider is not entitled to compensation, but these defendants are not necessarily some bad person who was knowingly choosing to ignore bike safety.  For this reason, anything that can be done to prevent future dooring accidents anywhere in the world, including the Greater Boston area, should be done, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

The Dutch Reach Can Prevent Dooring Accidents

In addition to having signs in cabs, another thing that can be done to limit the number of serious or fatal dooring accidents in Boston is educating motorists on what has become known as the Dutch Reach, after the nation in which it was popularized. Normally, a person uses the hand closest to the door handle to reach over an the open the door.  This makes sense since people often do things in the most efficient manner when it comes to physical movements. However, if you were instructed to use your other hand, you would have to twist your upper body to reach the door handle and this would not only remind you, but basically force you to look behind you when opening the door.  This should greatly increase the chance of seeing an oncoming bike rider and not opening the door in his or her path.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident (we prefer the term “bike crash”), call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-789 BIKE (2453).

Additional Resources:

These stickers could be about to appear inside every taxi in Leicester, May 25, 2018, By Dan Martin, Leicestshire Live

More Blog Entries:

Better Bicycle Infrastructure in Massachusetts Will Take Time, Feb. 21, 2018, Boston Bike Injury Lawyer Blog