Car door or “dooring” accidents are very common in Washington, DC. These accidents occur when a driver or passenger opens the door of a car that is parked near a bicycle lane. A cyclist doesn’t anticipate the sudden opening, and he crashes into the door. Sometimes, the injuries are minor, and the bicyclist is simply stunned by the collision. But, in many cases, the impact causes the bicyclist to fly over the top of the car door and into traffic. This can result in very serious injuries.
DC traffic laws require motorists and their passengers to watch for oncoming traffic, including bicycles, before opening a door. But DC bicyclists can also help prevent “dooring” accidents.
Six Ways DC Bicyclists Can Prevent Dooring Accidents
- Scan continuously while riding your bike. Don’t just look at traffic. Be aware of cars that have recently parked and vehicles with occupants that may exit. Never assume that parked cars are safe.
- Be aware of the “Door Zone.” The Door Zone extends three to four feet to the side of a parked car.
- Ride to the left when possible. Staying on the left side of the bike or traffic lane will keep you away from opening doors. You may worry about being hit by the car behind you, but that driver will be able to see you. You are much more likely to be injured by an opening door.
- Always wear a helmet. Head injuries are the leading cause of bicycle accident deaths. A helmet won’t prevent every head injury, but it will cushion the impact.
- Avoid distractions. Bicyclists can be just as distracted as drivers. A biker who is not paying attention is more likely to get “doored.”
- Choose routes that avoid heavy traffic. Use bike trails near the waterfront and in other tourist areas. Drivers who are not familiar with DC may not think to watch for bicyclists.
Following traffic laws and being alert will reduce your risk of a DC “dooring” accident. But drivers also have to do their part. The person who opens the car door into the path of a bicyclist is liable for any injuries that result from the accident. Damages may include payment for past and future medical bills, past and future wage loss, scarring, deformity, and pain and suffering. To learn more, contact Lewis and Tompkins and ask to schedule a free consultation.