Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Illinois Drivers Now Advised to Use the "Dutch Reach" to Prevent Doorings

The Illinois Secretary of State will now be required to include the "Dutch Reach" as a part of the Rules of the Road for Illinois motorists. The "Dutch Reach" is where a motorist opens the car door with their right hand. This action naturally requires the driver to look over their left shoulder and towards oncoming traffic. The goal of the "Dutch Reach" is to teach motorists to always check for oncoming cyclists prior to opening their vehicle door into traffic and to prevent doorings.

Section 11-1407 of the Illinois Vehicle Code and Section 9-80-035 of Municipal Code of Chicago make it illegal to open a vehicle door into traffic with the same statutory language: 
"No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers."
As clarified in the 2017 Illinois bike law known as "Dennis' Law," a bicycle is a vehicle under Illinois law. According to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation, doorings area plague to Chicago cyclists in particular. In 2015 there were 302 cases of doorings. There were 203 in 2014, 270 in 2013, 334 reported in 2012 and 336 in 2011, the first full year IDOT collected data on the number of doorings.

It is important to note that from a legal perspective this legal change does not require motorists to utilize the "Dutch Reach." The law essentially requires Illinois drivers to be taught the "Dutch Reach." In other words, Illinois drivers are advised to utilize the "Dutch Reach" in the Illinois Rules of the Road Publication, but are not required to do so by law under the Illinois Vehicle Code.

This new Illinois bike law is nonetheless a giant victory for Ride Illinois and the Active Transportation Alliance who valiantly fought for the promotion of the "Dutch Reach" as a simple safety practice that can reduce the number of doorings in Illinois. The promotion of the utilization of the "Dutch Reach" will help the practice become more commonplace in Illinois and is a further reflection of the commitment by Illinois lawmakers to make cycling safer. 

The inclusion of the "Dutch Reach" in the Rules of the Road will also help establish safety practices for checking for oncoming bicyclists as "ordinary practice" for Illinois motorists. When a bicyclist is doored in Illinois and is injured, we need to establish that the driver was negligent. Establishing negligence is done by showing that they did not follow "ordinary care." While not quite the full effect of a rule under the Rules of the Rode, this advisory position carries some weight in arguing that a driver is acting most safely when they check for an oncoming bicyclist. 

Keating Law Offices' founding attorney Mike Keating has an extensive background in Illinois legislation. He is a former Assistant Counsel to the Illinois House of Representatives where he worked on hundreds of pieces of legislation. Mike is the author of "Dennis' Law" and worked with the Jurs family and legislators to pass the law. Keating Law Offices also represented the Jurs family in the case. In addition, Mike serves as a Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association where he is a also a member of the Board of Governors.