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The United Kingdom is introducing a new traffic rule. According to this BBC article,

A method known as the "Dutch reach" is to be introduced to the Highway Code in the UK after years of campaigning.

The practice is used widely across Europe and encourages people to open vehicle doors with their opposite hand to avoid injuries to passing cyclists.

Further down there is some explanation why this method is called the "Dutch reach":

  • The technique is named after a method for opening car doors that has been standard practice by the Dutch for many years

Now this is one of the things you do quite often but not think about how you (or other people) do it; but I am Dutch, I always open the car door with the closest hand and as far as I know other people I drive with (not many since the pandemic, I'll admit) do it too. Is my experience representative, or is the "Dutch reach" really standard practice in the Netherlands?

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    One wonders if this is just one of those things that are extremely common in continental Europe (when I got my driving license in Italy, not doing it was ground for immediate failure of the driving test), but that the English associate to the Dutch just for proximity... Jan 27 at 18:31
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    I could also see the possibility of the slang usage of "Dutch" to indicate backwards, like a "Dutch Uncle" or a "Dutch Date". Jan 27 at 20:08
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    I really struggled for a while to understand how the hand used for opening a vehicle door could have an effect on the risk of injuries to passing cyclists. I had to read the linked article to figure out that it referred to opening the door from the INSIDE. :D This is certainly not a widespread practice in Sweden yet at least.
    – jkej
    Jan 27 at 23:34
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    Arguably the Netherlands probably has less use for such a technique than many other countries nowadays, where cyclists are more likely to be in segregated lanes that are usually well clear of any door zones. Jan 28 at 1:01
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    Anecdotal, but I'm Dutch and open the door with my closest (when driving that's left) hand. I've never seen anyone do it any other way. The best way to avoid damage to cyclysts is to avoid hitting cyclists when opening your door. My car is equipped with windows and mirrors. I look for cyclists before opening the door. Being Dutch and thus having much experience on bikes, I know what the most dangerous locations are and never had a cyclist hit my car door.
    – Mast
    Jan 28 at 8:51

3 Answers 3

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The so-called Dutch reach is not required during lessons or exams according to Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen (the organisation responsible).

And drivers won't be required to use the Dutch reach according to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat).

It is unclear why the Dutch reach is called the Dutch reach. It was mentioned in a Dutch newspaper in 1961.

Source

Dutchreach.org has a detailed article called "Is the Dutch Reach really Dutch?"

As a life-long cyclist in Amsterdam and surrounding areas I can confidently state that the Dutch reach is not standard practice in the Netherlands at this point in time.

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    Whilst the Dutch reach not a requirement during driving lessons or exams, the CBR acknowledges in the linked article that the Dutch reach can help to see other road users when getting out of the car. "That is why there are driving schools that teach their students this method".
    – DeltaLima
    Jan 27 at 21:38
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    True, but someone from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management stated that while the Dutch reach could help prevent accidents, it could be difficult for people with disabilities to use the Dutch reach, and that opening the door using the Dutch reach might be difficult in certain cars, which could lead to people focusing more on opening the door than paying attention to their surroundings.
    – Gantendo
    Jan 28 at 2:43
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    This answer has more-then-anecdotal evidence that the Dutch reach is not standard practice in the Netherlands. I'm a Dutch driver and had not heard about it prior to news about the new traffic rule in GB. I personally know of two very serious accidents where a cyclist was smashed with a car door. I had no idea the Dutch reach existed and could maybe have prevented them.
    – Ivana
    Jan 28 at 11:25
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    Anecdotally, I had driving lessons in the Netherlands with two separate instructors. Neither of them taught me about the Dutch reach, and I never heard about it in the 9 years I lived there.
    – Eric
    Jan 28 at 16:48
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    I'm Dutch, been driving cars since the early 80's and when I first heard the term "Dutch Reach" a few years ago I had to go to Google to find out what it was all about. Never heard of it. Nobody around me knows about it either.
    – Tonny
    Jan 29 at 10:19
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I am from the Netherlands and I specifically learned it during my driving lessons from my driving instructor. I thought it was a standard thing. I still consistently do it. In my town if you don't do it, you have a high chance of hitting someone coming a long.

I didn't know it was a specific Dutch thing, this is the first time I heard it's called 'Dutch Reach'.

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  • Welcome to Skeptics! This is an anecdote. The Internet is full of untrue anecdotes, and we have no way of assessing whether one is true and whether it always applies. Therefore, they are not acceptable here. The answer has been deleted in accordance with policy. Please edit it to add references to empirical data and flag it for moderator attention in order to get it reinstated.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 31 at 0:48
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    I am Dutch and never learned it or seen it done by anyone who has good use of the arm nearest the door to them in decades driving and being a passenger.
    – jwenting
    Feb 2 at 12:25
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It probably falls, and I hope it will, into the same category as the other sayings like: "Going Dutch", "Dutch courage"... Actually there is a whole post related to sayings with 'Dutch' in it:

https://www.iamexpat.nl/expat-info/dutch-expat-news/english-expressions-and-idioms-word-dutch

As you can see there are also examples of other good so-called Dutch behaviour...

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    This is not an answer. The etymology of the phrase might share a similar source of these other words. Does it? Or the etymology might come from the practice originating or being popular among the Dutch. The question is about the latter.
    – Oddthinking
    Jan 31 at 0:47

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