We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Mailbag: Dutch reaches and zipper merges

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, October 19th 2018

Using the “Dutch reach” to open car doors helps drivers look behind to spot oncoming cyclists.


Here are answers and comments to frequently asked questions on a variety of topics.

John Daly, of former BCTV/Global fame and now of CKNW talk radio, wants me to remind every driver and passenger to use the “Dutch reach” when opening their vehicle door.
The opening of the vehicle door is done with the offside arm, forcing the person to turn in the direction of approaching traffic, prior to opening the door.
This allows for a much easier manner of checking for hazards before exiting the vehicle.

A New York Times article said 2016 was the worst year for bike/vehicle crashes in the U.S. since 1991.
Many of these crashes involve “dooring.” A 2015 University of B.C. study confirmed this as being one of the leading causes of injury for cyclists.
It is important for drivers to be aware of this dangerous action, which is enforced by a fine of $81 and two penalty points.
The more important issue is the serious injury and fatal crash potential, and of course the likely legal repercussions.

As a follow-up to last week’s column about disability permits, John wants to remind every driver of their vision being obscured, by not only the permit, but also other items including dreamcatchers, statues, stuffed animals, necklaces and a variety of other things hanging from the rear view-mirror.

(Thanks also for the reminder of the more accurate description, rather than “handicapped card.”)

Wendy asked for a review of the zipper merge.
Rather than have one long line of traffic merging early, it is better to encourage two or more lanes to merge at the point of alternating traffic where the two lanes meet.
This is an accepted practice all over the world.

Many drivers confuse this practice with the observance of the yield sign, which gives the right-of-way to those accepting the traffic joining the through flow.
Yielding drivers might have to stop, while drivers reacting to the merge sign are meant to be accommodated in the act of merging.
Mary has been given advice about gear choice when stopped at a red light.
Some people tell her to put the vehicle in neutral while waiting for the light to change.

Others say it is a good idea to keep the vehicle in gear with her foot on the brake.
Manual-transmission drivers are more apt to put the vehicle in neutral.
This is common practice in Europe. It allows for a release of the clutch and a brief rest for the left foot.

My preference is to keep a foot on the brake regardless, thus illuminating the brake lights.
This will alert traffic approaching from behind.

Is it legal to pass a vehicle on which the hazard lights are flashing?
A passing move can be made. It is legal, but it is advisable to do so with extra caution.
The same rule applies when there is a single solid yellow centre line on a two-lane, opposite-flow road.

Thanks to John for the question.

Jim, my sometime golfing buddy, and some other readers, wanted me to clarify my “left goes last” comment in a recent column.
They think they have the right-of-way to make a left turn on an advance green flashing arrow, before those facing them intending to make a right turn on a red light.

They are correct.

In this case, the green light takes priority over the solid red light.
The problem for both drivers occurs at a multi-lane road.
The left-turn drivers must enter the immediate lane and might be deemed partially at fault if they collide with a driver who has legally stopped and subsequently attempts a legal right-on-red turn.






© 2023 Joan Wallace Driving School. All Rights Reserved.