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Va. bill would fine drivers for 'dooring' bicyclists

Monday - 1/7/2013, 4:15pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - There's a move in Virginia to help protect bicyclists from a dangerous hazard -- open car doors.

More than 20 states, including Maryland and D.C., already have laws making the occupant of a car liable if he opens the door in front of a bicyclist. But Virginia doesn't.

State Senator Chap Peterson, D-Fairfax, wants to change that.

"It's incumbent on the automobile owner when they exit on that side of the vehicle, adjacent to a bike lane, to before they open their door to just look and make sure it's clear".

Peterson says he's introducing a bill (SB736) that would fine the occupant of the car as much as $100 for what some call "dooring."

Depending on circumstances, the car occupant might also be liable for medical costs if the cyclist is injured. There would be no points placed on the driver's license for a violation.

Peterson says he's responding to an issue brought to him by the public.

The bill makes it a traffic offense for opening a door "on the side adjacent to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonable safe to do so."

It also says the vehicle occupant can leave that door open no longer than is "reasonably necessary to load or unload passengers."

Police and emergency vehicles are exempt.

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(Copyright 2013 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)