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Can New Car Technology Prevent Cyclist Doorings?

One of the biggest threats to a cyclist can be a parked car. But “doorings” – which occur when a vehicle driver or passenger opens their door into a cyclist’s right of way causing the cyclist to crash – have increasingly become a problem car companies are seeking to prevent through new technology. 

Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Volvo, Ford, Audi, and Volkswagen have all announced or  introduced anti-dooring technology into newer models. 

But not all of this technology has reached models being sold in the U.S. yet. Ford’s Exit Warning, for example, will first be included in European delivery vans, according to Car Scoops, as will Volkswagen’s technology. It’s expected that some 2024 models, including the Ford Mustang and Volkswagen Tiguan, Passat, and Golf, will adopt the feature. 

Hyundai rolled out its safe-exit assist in the 2019 Santa Fe. They quickly added the feature to Palisade models after 2020. The Elantra also features a similar technology.

Car companies say this new feature will warn drivers that it may not be safe to open a door – which could be particularly helpful in urban areas where cyclists and vehicle drivers have to exist together. In 2016, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency reported that doorings constituted nearly 16% of all bicycle crashes where the cyclist was not at fault in the region. 

How Dangerous is a Dooring?

While doorings can cause a range of serious injuries for cyclists, among the most common is a clavicle fracture, also known as a broken collarbone. The force of hitting a door or the pavement can fracture or break a collarbone – and it can sometimes be hard to spot with an untrained eye. 

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says signs of a fracture in addition to severe pain may include:

  • Sagging of the shoulder downward and forward
  • Inability to lift the arm because of pain
  • A grinding sensation when you try to raise the arm
  • A deformity or bump over the break
  • Bruising, swelling, and/or tenderness over the collarbone

If you’re involved in a dooring and you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek out medical care to determine whether there will be lasting or permanent damage. Knowing the severity of the injury will also help Bay Area Bike Law attorneys assisting in your case.

A severe crash can also cause a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other life-changing injuries that may require amputation and months of physical therapy. These injuries can become more severe when there’s more force or speed. 

How Does Anti-Dooring Technology Work?

Many of today’s vehicles are already equipped with technology that alerts drivers to safety concerns around them, and anti-dooring technology works much the same way. The feature utilizes a sensor that can warn a car occupant if there may be a danger to opening the door.

“(Hyundai) uses existing blind-spot radar sensors to automatically keep rear doors locked if coming traffic is detected,” the Globe and Mail explains. “It’s the latest example of an automaker squeezing more mileage out of technology that’s already in the car.”

The technology utilizes the radar senses already hidden in the back bumper. Hyundai tells the Globe and Mail that adding safe-assist to its cars is relatively simple and doesn’t require any major investments or vehicle reconfigurations. 

The Volvo EX30’s ADAS kit will be standard in the new model, according to the car maker, and includes a sensor that alerts the driver and passengers if traffic is approaching

Ford says the exit warning available in 2024 Mustangs will identify vulnerable road users traveling at least 4 miles per hour, which they calculate is roughly one-third the speed of an average cyclist. If that vulnerable road user is detected approaching and could be impacted upon approach, the warning will use audio and visual alerts to notify the driver on the instrument cluster and side mirror

To enhance safety, Ford has programmed the technology to remain active for three minutes after the ignition is turned off. 

Old School Safety Checks

While anti-dooring technology is expected to continue rising in popularity, all drivers and passengers of any model of car can limit their threat of hitting a cyclist with a simple maneuver when exiting the car: the “dutch reach,” which was made popular in regions of Europe where there are a high rate of cyclists on busy roadways. 

Here’s how it works, as explained by one cyclist in the New York Times

“When you are about to exit the car, you reach across your body for the door handle with your far or opposite hand. This action forces you to turn toward the side view mirror, out and then back over your shoulder to be sure a bicyclist is not coming from behind. Only then do you slowly open the door,” says Michael Charney.

Drivers and passengers — even in rideshares — alike can use this move to minimize threats to cyclists.