An American survey of dooring laws

The Senate Transportation Committee of the Virginia General Assembly today consider SB 736, an anti-dooring bill that would bring Virginia’s motor vehicle code in line with the 90% of the nation that has the identical law on their books. Unfortunately, after some legislators and other opinion makers have branded what should be common sense as “foolishness,” SB 736 may have an uphill battle.

Late Update: SB 736 passes through Senate Transportation Committee for consideration by the full Senate.

Later Update: SB 736 passes the full Senate 23-17 on January 22. It’s now in the House Transportation Committee.

The WashCycle claims 45 states already have an anti-dooring law. In a survey of state traffic codes, I found 40 states and the District of Columbia (shown in green on the map below) have this law. I could not find a dooring law for 10 states (shown on red on the below map), including Virginia. (Please let me know in the comments if you know of a state I’ve missed).


Dooring laws map

Most states have adopted verbatim the model text provided in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which says “No person may open the door of a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so, without interfering with the movement of other traffic. No person may leave a door of a vehicle open on the side of a parked vehicle so as to obstruct the movement of vehicular traffic.” Virginia SB736 is worded the same, with the addition of a fine ($100) and exceptions for law enforcement, firefighters, rescue personnel and “school guards” (huh?!).

Although some Virginians are pitting this as a cycling issue, this law was written in the 1950s at the latest, long before the current bike boom and even the 1970s bike boom. California has had this law on the books since at least 1963. You’d think it should be stupidly obvious to watch for passing traffic when opening your car door, but it happens, and the people who do this complain furiously when they’re ticketed for violating the car door law. I was once told of a bus driver who proudly tracks the car doors he hits with hash marks on his coffee mug. Bus drivers also tell me they’re always, without exception blamed by the door opener whenever the bus “catches a door.”

Virginia Bicycle Federation has the goods on who to contact about the dooring bill. Committee hearing on this is happening as I post this.

State vehicle codes – specific citations and links to dooring law for each state as found January 2013.

“X” means I didn’t find the code. Sorry for the sloppy formatting but I wanted to get this out there. I might clean this up later. Please report bad links in the comments.


Alaska 13 AAC 02.495(d)

Arizona ARS 28-904 http://www.azleg.state.az.us/FormatDocument.asp?inDoc=/ars/28/00905.htm&Title=28&DocType=ARS

Arkansas 27-51-1307 http://law.justia.com/codes/arkansas/2010/title-27/subtitle-4/chapter-51/subchapter-13/27-51-1307/

California CVC 22517 http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc22517.htm

Colorado CRS 42-4-1207 http://www.lpdirect.net/casb/crs/42-4-1207.html

Connecticut X

Delaware Title 21 Chapter 41 § 4190 http://delcode.delaware.gov/title21/c041/sc11/index.shtml

Florida http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0300-0399/0316/Sections/0316.2005.html

Georgia Code 40-6-243 http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/Default.asp

Hawaii 291c-135 http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol05_Ch0261-0319/HRS0291C/HRS_0291C-.htm

Idaho http://law.justia.com/codes/idaho/2011/title49/chapter6/49-607/

Illinois http://law.onecle.com/illinois/625ilcs5/11-1407.html

Indiana x

Iowa x

Kansas http://kansasstatutes.lesterama.org/Chapter_8/Article_15/8-1577.html

Kentucky x

Louisiana http://www.legis.state.la.us/lss/lss.asp?doc=88218

Maine http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/statutes/29-a/title29-Asec2068.html

Maryland http://law.justia.com/codes/maryland/2010/transportation/title-21/subtitle-11/21-1105/

Massachusetts http://massbike.org/blog/2010/04/08/ask-massbike-opening-car-doors-who-has-the-legal-responsibility-to-watch-out/

Michigan x

Minnesota https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169.315

Mississippi http://law.justia.com/codes/mississippi/2010/title-63/3/63-3-911/

Missouri http://www.bikestlouis.org/bikelaws.htm

Montana http://data.opi.mt.gov/bills/mca/61/8/61-8-368.htm

Nebraska http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=60-6,180

Nevada http://www.leg.state.nv.us/NRS/NRS-484B.html#NRS484BSec153

New Hampshire http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/XXI/265/265-96.htm

New Jersey x

New Mexico http://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2011/chapter66/article7/section66-7-367/

New York http://www.lawserver.com/law/state/new-york/ny-laws/ny_vehicle_traffic_law_1214

North Carolina x

North Dakota http://www.lawserver.com/law/state/north-dakota/nd-code/north_dakota_code_39_10_54-1

Ohio http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4511.70

Oklahoma http://law.justia.com/codes/oklahoma/2006/os47.html

Oregon http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/811.490

Pennsylvania http://law.onecle.com/pennsylvania/vehicles/00.037.005.000.html

Rhode Island http://www.dot.ri.gov/bikeri/bikelanelaws.asp

South Carolina http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t56c005.php

South Dakota http://law.justia.com/codes/south-dakota/2010/title-32/chapter-30/statute-32-30-2-5/

Tennessee x

Texas http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/txstatutes/TN/7/C/545/I/545.418

Utah http://le.utah.gov/code/TITLE41/htm/41_06a170400.htm

Vermont http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=23&Chapter=013&Section=01119

Virginia x

Washington http://statutes.laws.com/washington/title-46/46-61/46-61-620

West Virginia x

Wisconsin http://cycling.lohudblogs.com/2009/04/29/wisconsin-drivers-must-look-bbefore-opening-thehir-car-door/

Wyoming http://legisweb.state.wy.us/statutes/statutes.aspx?file=titles/Title31/T31CH5.htm

19 Comments

  • January 16, 2013 - 2:35 pm | Permalink

    You might want to search for Drivers manuals in the states that you could not find the specific law.

    I looked up a few…

    In Connecticut the Drivers Manual instructs at p. 32 “When parked on the street, check to the sides and rear for bicyclists before you open your vehicle door.”

    The link is: http://www.ct.gov/dmv/lib/dmv/20/29/r12eng.pdf

    Similarly, the Indiana driver’s manual at Chapt. 5, p. 71 provides, “After parking and before opening vehicle doors, a motorist should first check for bicyclists.”

    The link is: http://www.in.gov/bmv/files/Drivers_Manual_Chapter_5.pdf

    The Iowa driver’s manual at section 2, p. 20 instructs “Check traffic before you open the door.” This is only in reference to parking and there is no specific reference to bicyclists.

    The link is: http://www.iowadot.gov/mvd/ods/dlmanual/section2.pdf

    Kentucky’s drivers manual has a section on “rules for motorists concerning bicycles” and specifically instructs, “When opening your car door, check behind for cyclists.”

    The link is: http://www.kentuckystatepolice.org/pdf/2011_ky_drivers_manual.pdf

    Hope this helps

  • January 16, 2013 - 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Rick. These are helpful, but I’m looking for statements about the law. Driving handbooks can say whatever they want. The California drivers manual, for example, says cyclists should carry identification. It’s a good idea, but there’s no legal requirement for cyclists to do so.

  • January 16, 2013 - 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. In looking at the common wording of the law (“No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless …”), it makes me wonder how the low applies in situations where both sides of a car are exposed to moving traffic (since the statutes say “side”), as in the case of a bike lane buffered from shared traffic lanes by parked cars…

  • Richard W
    January 17, 2013 - 5:41 am | Permalink

    Indiana’s looks to be a part of this:

    IC 9-21-8-37
    Pedestrians and children; due care; caution
    Sec. 37. Notwithstanding other provisions of this article or a local ordinance, a person who drives a vehicle shall do the following:
    (1) Exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian or a person propelling a human powered vehicle, giving an audible signal when necessary.
    (2) Exercise proper caution upon observing a child or an obviously confused, incapacitated, or intoxicated person.

    So not a specific law, but should be applicable.

  • January 17, 2013 - 10:49 am | Permalink

    Hmm, interesting.

    I especially like the part where drivers are supposed to honk at pedestrians and cyclists as part of their “due caution.”

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  • February 16, 2013 - 8:42 pm | Permalink

    I’m color blind and that map is very hard to read. Could you redo in different colors than red/green?

  • February 16, 2013 - 11:37 pm | Permalink

    My apologies! I’ve generally tried to keep access in mind for this kind of stuff. I’ll try to redo the map tomorrow.

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