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Slater and Gordon has backed calls for stronger penalties for drivers who open their car doors in the path of approaching cyclists.

The firm, which is presently representing numerous car dooring victims in Victoria, supports a Victorian parliamentary inquiry’s recommendations to increase the maximum fine for offending drivers from $366 to $1408.

Slater and Gordon motor vehicle accident lawyer Nicholas Mann said the state’s road laws needed to send a stronger message to motorists about the dangers of opening a car door without checking for other road users.

“This is something that arises out of a moment of inattention but the results can be serious injury or even death so we believe the penalty should better reflect the risks involved,” Mr Mann said.

“A $1408 fine for opening the car door in front of an approaching cyclist without looking might seem like a harsh penalty but the consequences of that simple action can be horrific.”

He said most of the car dooring victims he had encountered had received lower leg or spinal injures as well as cuts and abrasions.

“The initial impact really is no different to cycling into a brick wall but the real danger comes after that impact, when the cyclist is lying on the road and other approaching vehicles may not be able swerve or stop in time,” Mr Mann said.

“While we are not directly involved in the way this issue is policed, we do have regular contact with people whose lives have been turned upside down as a result of car doorings,” Mr Mann said.

Mr Mann said stronger penalties would help prevent car doorings if combined with other measures like advisory stickers for side rear-view mirrors that would serve as a constant reminder to look before opening a car door.

“We would encourage any change that made people more aware of the potential consequences of opening a car door without looking to see what other traffic is approaching,” he said.

According to VicRoads data, there were 616 recorded doorings in Victoria between 2006 and 2010, with eight per cent of serious injuries to cyclists caused by dooring incidents.

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