Fulfilled living in later life
The ‘Dutch Reach’ and the gift of confident driving

Monday 4th October 2021

The ‘Dutch Reach’ and the gift of confident driving

Louise Morse

Have you heard about the ‘the Dutch Reach’? Dutch children learn it in school and from their parents, and it’s also part of Holland’s driving course and Highway Code. Not doing it means you fail your test and don’t get a licence. It was included in the UK’s new Highway Code changes in September this year, but a survey by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) of 10,000 motorists found that 85% knew nothing about it, and is offering a special gift voucher for Christmas to learn this, and other skills for safe motoring for years to come.

The Dutch Reach means that when getting out of a car, drivers and passengers must use their far hand to open the car door instead of using the nearest hand you reach across yourself for the door handle. The ‘reach’ forces you to swivel and look at the road for bikes and traffic.

‘Just using the mirrors are ineffective at stopping incidents’, said Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart said. He added that because of blind spots, dirt, glare, or improper adjustment, mirrors alone are ineffective spotting cyclises and motor cyclists. ‘The Dutch Reach is also especially important for rear passengers, who of course don’t have the benefit of mirrors.’ (Express, 2/10/21).

There may be other changes you haven’t noticed since you passed your driving test. One of the best investments I ever made was to take an Advanced Driver course a few years ago. I drive quite a few thousand miles each year as part of my job, giving talks at national events and at churches and conferences. One year I went as north as Keswick and as south as Plymouth and other places to the East and the West in between.

The IAM course was a revelation! It showed that I drove too fast, tended to clip corners and treated Stop signs as optional, depending on the traffic. (In America, if you halt instead of stopping completely the police will pull you over and give you a big fine.) Another failure was taking an interest in things that weren’t relevant: during the continuous spoken narrative I mentioned the beautiful cherry blossom tree in the garden of the house on the left. The inspector, former police driving instructor, was not impressed. But I learned and incorporated everything into my everyday driving.

Sometimes people will say ‘but it’s not only about you – it’s all the others on the road!’. One of the skills you learn is a kind of ‘parenting’ of the road, anticipating what others are likely to do and making allowances for them. Today, for example, a car swerved out of its lane into mine at a roundabout, but I’d anticipated it and held back so it could pass me safely – I was OK and so was he.

I passed the test at the second attempt and now have an Advanced Motorist Certificate. The big bonus is that I’m much more relaxed and confident. I can also parallel park (preferably with no-one watching) and reverse into a tight space in one go.

The IAM is offering gift vouchers for both Advanced Driver and Advanced Rider courses as Christmas gifts. They cost £149, come in a presentation gift box, and could mean years of more confident driving for recipients. It could mean the difference between being isolated and meeting up with friends and family.

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