Urban cyclists travel in constant fear of an inattentive car passenger opening a door in their path. But is it a criminal offence?
Car-dooring can be definied as any damage to another person or their goods by using your car door. It may be a dent to another car, or even worse an injury to a passing pedestrian or cyclist. In recent years there has been an increase in car-dooring incidents where cyclists have been injured or killed.
In fact, in Victoria alone there were 494 injuries to road users due to car-dooring crashes between 2006 and 2010, of which 433 (88 per cent) were to cyclists. What’s more, these cyclist injuries represented 19.4 per cent of all cycling injuries reported to police, making it the most common crash type.
Rule 269(3) of the National Transport Commission Regulations 2006 states that it is an offence to cause a hazard to a person or a vehicle by opening a car door, leaving a door of a vehicle open or getting off, or out of, a vehicle.
The description is wide enough to include damage to people as well as property. The fines vary from state to state, and in some states demerit points may be deducted. Where an offence results in a person’s death, the penalty may be increased depending on the charge, including reckless driving or negligence.
Some individual state and territory fines and demerit points include:
- New South Wales: $319, 0 demerit points
- Victoria: $379, 0 demerit points
- Australian Capital Territory: $159, 0 demerit points
- South Australia: $173, 3 demerit points
- Northern Territory: $40, 0 demerit points.
If you’re a driver, there are simple precautions you can take and routines you can get into to potentially save the life of a cyclist:
- Checking your surroundings before entering/exiting a vehicle.
- Being mindful, particularly around bike lanes and always using your side and rear-vison mirrors.
- Remember that cyclists can travel at fast speeds – particularly if you're parked on a hill.
- In recent years, state bodies such as VicRoads have introduced removable stickers you can attach near your car door to remind you to look
If you’re a cyclist, you can protect yourself against accident or injury to yourself and others by:
- Approaching parked cars with caution.
- Keeping out of the ‘door zone’ or sticking to the centre right of the bike lane if it is safe to do so.
- Wearing reflective clothing and safety protection gear.
- Ensuring you have working and bright front and rear lights in dark conditions.
- Sounding your bell if you see a risk ahead.