Major Highway Code changes were introduced in January, with motoring organisations urging drivers to familiarise themselves with the driving rules again. One part of the revised code covers opening your car door blindly.
Cyclists have now been urged to remain vigilant as it will take some time for motorists to familiarise themselves with the new rule.
Cycling UK estimates that more than 500 people in the UK are injured annually by motorists opening a car door into someone’s cycle path.
And now a top lawyer has warned that the new rules could lead to an avalanche of lawsuits over accidents caused by the new rules.
Lawyer Nick Freeman, known as Mr Loophole, has claimed that some rules are lacking “common sense” and argued they could make pedestrians and cyclists even more vulnerable to motorists and lead to more road accidents.
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He also said a third of people didn’t know about the changes to the Highway Code before they came into force, and warned that road user’s lack of awareness could lead to more lawsuits being brought.
Speaking to Nigel Farage on GB News, Mr Freeman, who specialises in road laws, argued that the new rules lacked “common sense”.
He said: “Who says it is sensible for pedestrians to have the power to step out in front of a car at a junction and have priority.
“Or for a cyclist to take the crown of the road when we’ve got limited space, huge congestion, this is the most congested city in the world (London) because of cycle lanes, ‘you don’t need to use the cycle lanes Mr Cyclist, sit in the middle of the road and hold us up and we are going to sit patiently behind you’.
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“That’s what they are entitled to do. It just lacks common sense.”
He continued: “A third of the country didn’t know about this (until last Saturday) and what’s concerning is the rest of the country, a significant balance, say ‘I’m not going to look, I’m not interested’.
“It’s so drastic that there are going to be a lot of problems, a lot of people are going to be coming to court, seeing lawyers, saying I didn’t know this, well that’s your fault.”
The new rule states drivers should practice what is known as the “Dutch Reach”.
Opening the door with the hand furthest away from the door means people automatically turn their body towards the door and look over their shoulder as they go to leave their car.
The over-the-shoulder look as motorists reach for their door handle is a vital part of the method.
By doing so, anyone exiting the car will be able to spot any cyclists or pedestrians passing by the vehicle that they may have missed otherwise.
The new section under rule 239 now reads: “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.”
This technique is borrowed from the Netherlands, where it has always been used as standard for exiting a vehicle – hence the name, “Dutch Reach”.