What you can do to #endcardooring
Perhaps you're running late for a meeting. Or maybe you're laughing at something you heard on the radio. Maybe you have fractious children in the back seat who are commanding all of your already splintered attention. You're probably on auto-pilot, performing a function so mundane that you aren't even really aware of what you're doing. You are focused on the next moment - what you are going to do when you get out of your car.
But as events this week have tragically highlighted, at this very moment, you are in possession of a power so great that it can take another person's life in an instant. Your innocent disregard for something so simple as looking behind you can be irredeemably extinguished by the innocence of the person who has just died as a result of your negligence.
How do you feel? How do you live with this for the rest of your life?
It is never acceptable that human life must be lost for a public safety issue to come to prominence. At The Squeaky Wheel, we have been working with various government and advocacy bodies over the last few years to raise awareness of this critical issue, which is the leading cause of injury for people riding bikes (see links below).
The most important message that has come from this work is simple. Our responsibilities as a motorist do not end the moment we switch off the ignition. The law states that the onus of responsibility is always ON YOU to ensure you do not cause a hazard whilst exiting your car.
Far too much emphasis has been placed on the responsibilities of people riding bikes to avoid car dooring. Not only is it practically impossible to judge when this random act is going to take place, the infrastructure provided for us to ride on makes these recommendations dangerous in themselves.
Avoiding car dooring is simple. Changing the public negligence of the onus of responsibility is the challenge. With very little emphasis on car dooring as a public safety issue, it's no surprise that for people who don't ride bikes, awareness of the issue is very low.
We can of course lobby government and advocacy bodies to make improvements in road conditions and undertake public awareness campaigns, and penalties for breaking the law can be increased. Here are some opportunities that have arisen after this week's tragic outcome.
We can also become an advocates in our everyday lives. Every time you are in a car with other people (exiting from either side), show them how easy it is to avoid car dooring. Simply state:
"I'm going to open my door with my opposite hand, so that when I get out, i'm looking behind me and can see if anyone is coming."
"I've got my keys, wallet, phone, I've checked my mirrors, and I'm opening my door with my opposite hand."
These simple actions are all it takes to #endcardooring. Even if you don't drive, you can share this information with your family, friends and workmates.
There is little to be gained in blaming people for behaviour that has up to that point, been encouraged and accepted as normal. We need to create a new normal, informed by an awareness that both parties, the person who potentially causes serious injury or death by opening the car door, and the person who suffers the impact, are both victims of negligence around car dooring.
What we must never lose sight of is that there is only one victim who has the capacity to do anything about it, and that the law expects this of them.
A memorial for the person killed this week by a car dooring is being held on Friday 6th March.
Details here. Our thoughts go out to the friends and family of the person killed, and everyone involved.