When I’m teaching my students to drive at Young Drivers of Canada, I often try to use the simple approach. The less information and steps, the easier it is to remember them. I also use some of those steps to help my kids become safe and to help plant a seed in their mind before they begin their journey of learning to drive. Simple things sometimes seem just too simple to work; but what if they do work? Is there anything wrong with that?
When my kids are in my minivan or car, they tend to ride in the backseat. If I’m parked at the side of the road, they may have to get out on the road side and not the sidewalk side. That in itself is quite dangerous for each of my passengers if a vehicle is approaching from behind us. My job as a driver is to ensure my passengers arrive at their destination safely, but when does that job end? Is it when we stop and park or is it after they exit the vehicle? Since I often transport my kids to all of their activities, it has become a regular job and responsibility.
There’s an easy fix for getting out of the vehicle safely and it can also work for any driver; not just backseat passengers. First, try to have your backseat passengers exit the vehicle on the sidewalk side, especially if they are young kids. The risk of kids running around is high, especially if they are excited about something. If they get out on the road side, they may break from your grip and run into the path of a moving vehicle.
The second thing you as a driver could do is to check your side mirror before opening your door. I ask my students to reach across and open the driver’s door with their right hand. This forces their body to shift slightly and allow them to see easily into their side mirror before the door is opened. If you see a vehicle approaching, wait until they pass before you open the door. It will also help you instruct your backseat passengers to pause before opening their door if you spot a vehicle approaching your parked vehicle. No one really wants to open their door into traffic even though it does happen often.
In most jurisdictions, you can receive a fine and perhaps even demerit points if you open the door in front of an oncoming driver and it causes a crash. Think about how startled the driver may be if a door suddenly opens directly in front of them. Another reason to check your side mirror before opening the door is cyclists. Since cyclists tend to ride next to parked vehicles, they would get hit by your door if you opened it up in front of them. These are all reasons why we need to look before opening the door.
Put some thought into what you’re doing before you do it; if not for yourself, then for your backseat passengers and other road users. We need to make this a cooperative and safe society.