The commonwealth of Virginia has a Dooring Law because a surprising number of bicycle accidents occur because someone opens the door or a car parked on a street beside moving traffic, and a bicyclist rides into the door and falls from the bicycle. An accident of this kind can result in serious injury to the bicyclist. In fact, it has been estimated about roughly 20 percent of all bicycle accidents result in serious injury.
What is dooring? Dooring occurs when the driver of a car opens the driver-side door into a lane of moving traffic, causing a bicyclist in or beside that traffic to collide with the door. These accidents occur because drivers of cars fail to check for approaching bicyclists before opening their door. Another contributing factor in these crashes is a bicyclist who is riding too close to the parked cars.
Virginia’s Dooring Law became effective on July 1, 2016 [Virginia Code 46.2-818.1]. Forty or more states and the District of Columbia also have dooring laws. The law places responsibility upon the driver of the parked car to look for other vehicles, especially bicyclists, before opening the car door. Specifically, the law requires drivers to determine that it is “reasonably safe to do so” before opening a car door on the side of passing traffic. Failure to look for approaching vehicles when opening a door will result in a fine of $50.00.
Injuries to Bicyclists. When bicycles and cars collide, the unprotected bicyclist will impact either the car or the pavement. The type of injuries most commonly sustained by bicyclists include:
- Head injury
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Neck injury
- Spine injury
- Facial damage (lacerations and broken bones)
- Injuries to limbs (compound fractures, lacerations)
- Injuries to the chest
- Injuries to the abdomen
All of these injuries are serious and could result in permanent harm to the bicyclist. These long-term effects may include:
- Cognitive loss or impairment
- Psychological trauma
- Nerve damage
- Loss of motor function
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2014, 71 percent of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas.
Virginia’s Dooring Law is meant to reduce the number of bicyclist injuries due to impact with car doors. Clearly, both car drivers and bicyclists need to remain alert to what is happening around them. But drivers of cars, and their passengers, are being held responsible for checking for other cars and bicycles before opening a car door into moving traffic.
As the new school year begins, many children and teens will be riding bicycles to and from school. It is the right time to remind yourself of the dooring law, and to discuss bicycle safety with your children.
If you or a loved one should be injured while bicycling, the attorneys of Altizer Law, P.C., are available to you and your family. We have a great deal of experience representing those injured in bicycle involved crashes. Bettina and Terri will sit down with you to understand the incident, your injuries, and the long-term effects of the crash. If the crash was not your fault we will, if you wish, represent you in negotiation of a settlement or litigation of a court case.