The roads can be a dangerous place and at Schulze Law we encourage everyone to stay safe and use as many precautions as possible.
One scenario on the streets, called “dooring” can be very serious and cause bodily injury. It’s illegal for drivers and passengers to open their doors into traffic. Don’t rely on others for your safety or expect others to protect you.
Massachusetts Dooring Law- Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 90 Section 14 states:
“No person shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.”
Violation of this statute is punishable by a maximum $100 fine, but, a citation could also be presented in a civil claim for damages by the injured cyclist as evidence of negligence. This means an act is considered negligent because it broke the law. The law is extremely important because it assigns clear liability to one party over another in a dooring situation. The vehicle occupants essentially have more control in avoiding this type of incident, but cyclists should absolutely attempt to avoid vehicle doors. Frequently, there isn’t enough time to react when a door suddenly flies open. This kind of statute is helpful because it allows there to be an incentive for people getting out of vehicles to check for oncoming traffic first and less frequency of dooring occurrences overall.
Massachusetts is one of 40 states to have a dooring law. According to the Boston Cyclist Safety Report, dooring crashes accounted for 14 percent of the total bicycle collisions in the city between 2009 and 2012.
Follow these tips to avoid getting “doored” as a biker and “dooring” someone when you’re a driver or passenger. If you hit someone with a door, you will be found at fault and cited for “dooring” and if you’re hit, you can be seriously injured and hurt. It is the responsibility of the vehicle occupant to avoid dooring a bicyclist. A person who unsafely exits a vehicle can be held liable for any resulting damage and injuries. The bicyclist is in danger of hitting the door and also potentially being knocked or forced into oncoming traffic.
Ways to Avoid Dooring When in a Car:
- Look behind you and be aware of your surroundings by utilizing the mirrors and by physically turning around before opening a door
- Get in the habit of opening a door with your right hand (as a driver), which will automatically put you in a position to look back
- Never forcefully launch or swing a door open. Slowly and carefully open it, once you have determined the area to be clear
- Upon exiting the vehicle, close it as quickly as possible and never leave it wide open
Ways to Attempt to Avoid Dooring When Riding a Bike:
- Be sure to ride outside of the “door zone”. This will make you more visible to drivers in front of you & behind you. The “door zone” is 3-5 feet to the left of parked cars. Since car doors are various lengths, try to ride as far away, while still remaining safe from other moving traffic
- If you’re in an unprotected bike lane, stay toward the outside of the lane and don’t ride right next to parked cars
- Stay aware and avoid distraction. Keep an eye on actively parking cars and for drivers exiting their vehicles
- Be cautious of passenger vehicles (taxis, Ubers, buses, etc.) and always pass on the left to avoid making contact with drivers entering or exiting the roadway
- Use a bell, horn or your voice to communicate with drivers and passengers who are opening their doors
- Plan ahead so you are more familiar with your surroundings and be mindful of your speed
- Wear a helmet! Although this may not prevent an accident, it will help protect you and decrease the severity of a potential injury
Steps to Take if You Are Doored:
- Seek medical attention depending on the severity of the incident, if necessary. Your health and physical safety is top priority
- Call or ask someone to call 911 and ask for police assistance
- If you are able, request the driver to remain at the scene until the police arrive. In the case they refuse to stay or don’t provide an ID, obtain their description and the car’s description, the vehicle’s license plate # and state of issue. Get as much information as possible
- Ask for the driver’s license and insurance card. Write down the name, address, date of birth, and insurance information
- If there are witnesses, get their names and contact info. Ask them to please stay until the police arrive
When the Police Arrive:
- Ask them to take an incident report and get the reporting police officer’s name and badge number
- If you’ve been doored, the officer should cite the motorist for the violation. Make sure and confirm this has occurred.
- If there are witnesses, ask for the police to speak with them
Remember, it’s a two-way street. When you are the driver or passenger in a car, always ensure to look behind and around the vehicle for oncoming bikes before opening your door – it’s the law!
Stay safe and if you or a loved one ever find yourself involved in an accident or “dooring” situation, contact the experienced team at Schulze Law to help fight for you and protect your rights. Reach us at (857) 300-5300, 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week. Our after hours number is (800) 894-9267 x LAW1 (5291).
Learn more here: http://schulzelaw.com/practice-areas/personal-injury/