It was just announced that the Virginia House Transportation Committee voted 7-7 on the question of moving an “anti-dooring” measure onto the full General Assembly. Sadly the bill, which already passed the Senate and a House transportation subcommittee, will never see the light of day on the larger Virginia House floor.
The failure of the recent bill means that Virginia will continue to be one of only 10 states in the country that don’t prohibit “dooring.” Even Alaska, where there are surely few instances of cyclists being endangered on congested streets, has passed an anti-dooring law. The Virginia bill would have made opening car doors into traffic “unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so” an infraction punishable with a fine up to $100.
The bill was pushed hard by groups that have embraced cycling, especially those who live near the crowded roads in Northern Virginia. The bill would’ve helped not only to increase biker safety, but was seen as important in protecting cyclists from having insurance companies reject their claims following an accident. With a “dooring” law in place, the insurance companies would no longer be able to argue that no fault had been assessed by the police against a responsible party.
It’s such a shame that scheduling conflicts prevented a very valuable and potentially life-saving bill from reaching the House floor. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 618 bicyclists died in crashes with passenger vehicles in 2010. This is out of a much larger group of more than 52,000 bicycle injuries that occur each year due to collisions with cars. With the failure of the recent bill, drivers in Virginia are able to continue opening doors with no regard to the harm it could cause passing cyclists.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton & Favaloro personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.