Opening a car door without first checking to see if a bicyclist might crash into that door could soon cost Virginia motorists a hefty fine.
The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that bans motorists from opening car doors without first checking first to see if a bicycle, vehicle or pedestrian is headed their way. Failing to wait for a reasonable opportunity to open the door, or leaving it open for too long, could result in a traffic infraction and a $100 fine.
The bill is intended primarily to protect cyclists, who can be critically injured when a car door swings open into the path of a bike lane they're traveling on, commonly referred to as "dooring" in the cycling world.
"It's a traffic safety bill," said Sen. Chap Peterson, D-Fairfax, the bill's chief sponsor. "This is a serious issue that has caused injury."
The bill passed 23-17 and moves on to the House of Delegates.
Opponents said the measure makes motorist liable for cyclist who might be out of control on the roads. Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, said he sees too many bike riders whizzing up and down roads and moving from sidewalks to the street without following traffic laws.
"The bottom line here is you're looking at a $100 fine if someone runs into your door and it goes to a he said/she said situation," Wagner said. "It's establishing you're guilty for opening your car door whether you're guilty or not."