The Massachusetts Department of Transportation wants motorists to practice a method of getting out of their cars that has long been the standard in places like the Netherlands.
The department announced Tuesday that the Registry of Motor Vehicles has added the “Dutch Reach’’ safety procedure to its latest driver’s manual to reduce the number of “dooring’’ incidents involving cyclists.
In the Dutch Reach, drivers use their right hand when opening their door, forcing them to turn their bodies and almost unintentionally glance into a side-view mirror to check for oncoming cyclists.
The idea is to keep cyclists safe from getting hit by doors that drivers have opened unexpectedly. When cyclists are “doored,’’ or are forced to swerve to avoid doors, they can be seriously injured, or even killed.
In Boston alone, police responded to 202 dooring incidents between 2009 and 2012, according to state transportation officials.
Officials stressed that the method is not a law or a requirement, but merely a suggestion to promote safety. It may be added to the driver’s education curriculum at a later date, but will not be a reason for failing a test. Motorists already face penalties for opening their doors into the path of bicyclists.
A local bicycle advocate has been spearheading a grass-roots public information campaign using the catchy term “Dutch Reach’’ for almost a year.
Michael Charney, a 70-year-old retired doctor from Cambridge, rolled out a website called Dutchreach.org around September. The personal project was launched after Amanda Phillips, a 27-year-old barista at Somerville’s Diesel Cafe, was killed in a crash involving a car door in Inman Square last summer.
His idea, which was based on information he gathered from a blog item and a New York Times article from 2011, found early success in Somerville, when police agreed to work with Charney and put a message about the Dutch Reach up on an electronic sign board outside the Veterans Memorial Rink. The message read, “Safer to open car door with far hand,’’ in three separate, blinking sentences.
Two months later the term Dutch Reach gained legs, and was adopted by lawmakers in Canada.
Charney worked closely with the RMV, bicycle advocacy groups, and state legislators to bring the initiative to Massachusetts. He said at first he was told it would be a long shot, and could take a couple of years to implement. He was even told it wasn’t a sure thing.
But in a telephone interview Tuesday, following the RMV’s announcement, Charney said he was pleased by how quickly things moved ahead.
“It’s incredible,’’ Charney said. “This is a bingo. This is a set-point goal. This is what I was aiming for.’’
Richard Fries, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition was impressed by the RMV’s willingness to add Charney’s proposal to the driver’s manual.
“I was stunned by how flexible and receptive the Registry was,’’ he said. “When we think of the RMV, we think of the ultimate governmental bureaucracy, and they were able to turn on a dime and do this.’’