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Highway Code changes: what is the Dutch Reach and will drivers be fined £1,000 if they don't use it?

With days to go until Highway Code changes aimed at protecting vulnerable road users come into effect, we ask what is the 'Dutch Reach' and will drivers be forced to use it?...

In a few days changes to the Highway Code will come into force, including the recommendation for motorists to use the 'Dutch Reach' to avoid dooring a passing cyclist.

But what is the Dutch Reach? And why have several major newspapers wrongly claimed that drivers face fines if they do not use it?

As per 'Rule 239' of the proposed Highway Code changes, which aim to better protect vulnerable road users...

Where you are able to do so, you should open the door using your hand on the opposite side to the door you are opening; for example, use your left hand to open a door on your right-hand side.

This will make you turn your head to look over your shoulder. You are then more likely to avoid causing injury to cyclists or motorcyclists passing you on the road, or to people on the pavement.

Without using the term Dutch Reach, this is what the Highway Code alteration is outlining: a simple method taught to learner drivers in the Netherlands to better see blind spots and reduce the chance of opening your door into a passing cyclist, possibly with fatal consequences.

In video format...

 Will drivers have to use the Dutch Reach?

If you have been reading national newspapers, or their online equivalent, this week then you may have seen headlines claiming motorists will now be slapped with £1,000 fines if they do not use the Dutch Reach.

> Press misrepresents Highway Code changes – just days before they come into force

The Evening Standard recently published a story titled 'New Highway Code rule will fine drivers £1,000 for opening door with wrong hand', while the Express ran 'POLL: Do you support new fine for opening car with wrong hand as cyclists given priority?'

The truth? It is already an offence to open a car door, or cause or permit it to be opened, so as to cause injury, punishable by a maximum fine of £1,000.

It is not a new law and drivers who do not use the Dutch Reach technique will not be fined, unless they commit the aforementioned existing offence.

But when the adoption of a simple technique can help avoid the consequences of hitting — potentially seriously injuring or killing a fellow road user — why wouldn't you?

As one reader commented on one of our stories recently: "The Dutch reach is a sensible way of achieving proper observation before opening a door. This should help drivers and passengers avoid opening a door in such a way as it endangers or obstructs road or pavement users. It is not a "driver vs cyclist" matter."

The Dutch Reach has been misrepresented by national news outlets before. In 2018, The Sun claimed it "involves motorists winding down the window and opening the door from the outside using their left hand."

How do you feel about the Highway Code changes? Do you have concerns about the lack of publicity campaign? Will the changes make Britain's roads safer for vulnerable road users?

Dan joined in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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