“Dooring” events – crashes or other collisions triggered by a motorist opening their door into a cyclist or the cyclist’s path — are one of the more common collision events for cyclists in urban areas. Often with devastating results. As a bicycle accident lawyer, I’ve seen folks who have suffered catastrophic head injuries, shoulder injuries, neck injuries, etc., as a direct result of these incidents. Unfortunately, the cyclist is often without any means of preventing or avoiding these crash events. Why? Visibility and notice are the key problems.
Contrary to what many motorists (and jurors) may think, the cyclist usually has no warning that a “dooring” event is about to occur. A cyclist’s ability to see into the passenger compartment of a parked vehicle is usually very limited, most commonly due to window tinting (present on most mini-vans and SUVs) or sun glare reflecting off of the vehicles’ windows. Now, factor in the reality that cyclists are legally obligated to ride as far to the right side of the road/lane as possible in order to avoid obstructing the flow of traffic, and the recipe for disaster should be clear. The easiest means to avoid these accidents is to place an obligation on motorists to look before they open their doors! Why? Simple. Unlike the approaching cyclist, a motorist has direct knowledge of their plan to open the door, has no impediments to their ability to see through their windows, and has the added benefit of being able to view the approach of the cyclist in their mirrors.The vast majority of States in the US have traffic statutes which address Dooring by imposing a duty on all drivers to verify they can safely open their car doors before they do so. Unfortunately, New Jersey has no such statute.
As an avid cyclist and bicycle injury attorney in New Jersey, I think it is time for that to change. I urge you to do your part by writing to your state legislators and seeking change. Not sure who they are? You can look them up here. For more information of “dooring” and a summary of the way this hazard is addressed across the United States, visit League of American Cyclists website.