Virginia Senate Bill Would Outlaw “Dooring” of Cyclists
A new proposed bill in the Virginia Senate would fine motorists who “door” bicyclists. VA Senate bill #117 would amend Va. Code §46.2-818 to impose a $50 fine on anyone who opens a car door “unless it is reasonably safe to do so.”
A Virginia House committee is considering a similar measure.
“Dooring” occurs when a motorist opens a car door as a bicyclist is passing, oftentime causing serious injury. The area of danger has been termed the “door zone.” It varies depending on the model of car or truck, but typically the zone is about five feet in height. Statistics reveal that about 20% of reported cycling accidents have resulted in personal injuries from dooring.
The District of Columbia already has an anti-dooring law, DC Code §18-2214.4, as does Maryland §21-1105. Virginia is one of the handful of states without a specific anti-dooring provision. That may soon change.
Proponents of the new anti-dooring law argue that it provides a clear rule to assign responsibility and an incentive to motorists to look for bicyclists before opening their car doors. Others favor a public awareness campaign, like New York’s LOOK! Program, credited with reducing dooring injuries in New York City.
Infrastructure shortcomings and laws which require bicyclists to ride as far to the right of the roadway as possible, contribute greatly to dooring injuries. Bike lanes often channel cyclists too far to the right and directly into the paths of careless drivers.
Whether Virginia joins the forty (40) states which have specifically outlawed dooring is to be seen; however, caution on the part of drivers everywhere should greatly reduce dooring injuries.
Zukerberg & Halperin, PLLC, a personal injury law firm with offices on DC and Virginia, represents injured cyclists in both state and federal courts in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
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