Eighteen people were killed between 2009 and November last year in accidents caused by people who opened car doors without checking for traffic, accounting for about 0.31 percent of the nation’s total fatal crashes during the period, National Police Agency statistics show.
According to the data, 3,884 people in Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung were injured as a result of the careless opening of car doors during the same period, with three motorcyclists losing their lives.
Five percent of all traffic accidents nationwide are the result of non-human factors such as the weather, while human factors are responsible for the rest, said Lee Wen-hsiung (李文雄), the director of the Traffic Safety Department at the Keelung Police Department’s Traffic Police Unit.
Lee said he hoped to help reduce the rate of such accidents in the city by promoting the preventive countermeasure of using the opposite hand and looking back when opening a car door.
The nation saw a spate of these types of crashes last year, including a fatal case in January in which a male driver, surnamed Wu (吳), carelessly opened his car door without noticing that a middle-aged motorcyclist, surnamed Kuo (郭), was driving past and knocked the woman to the ground.
Kuo fractured her ribs in the accident and later died from a pneumohemothorax — an accumulation of air and blood in the pleural cavity.
Wu was sentenced to 11 months in prison on the charge of causing death by negligence.
In September, there was a similar case in Greater Taichung in which a month-old baby girl surnamed Tseng (曾), who was being carried by her parents on a motorcycle, was thrown to the ground after their scooter crashed into the door of a car opened by a woman surnamed Tsai (蔡).
The baby sustained serious skull fractures and was pronounced dead after being rushed to a hospital.
Citing the Criminal Code, Keelung District prosecutor Chou Chi-yung (周啟勇) said drivers or passengers who open a car door in such a way that it injures another person could face a maximum prison sentence of six months and a fine of no more than NT$500.
Chou said that those who caused more serious physical injuries due to this form of negligence could be detained, face a prison sentence of no more than one year or a maximum fine of NT$500.
The maximum prison term could be increased to two years and the fine to NT$2,000 if the carelessness leads to the death of the victim, Chou said.
Regarding professional drivers, Chou said taxi operators could be indicted on charges of causing bodily harm or death due to occupational negligence if someone is injured or killed because of their failure to properly pull their vehicles over to the side of the road before allowing passengers to disembark.
The crime of causing bodily harm due to occupational negligence carries a prison term of no more than one year and a maximum fine of NT$1,000, with those causing severe physical injuries facing a possible three years in prison and a fine of up to NT$2,000, Chou said.
However, Chou said people who are found guilty of professional negligence resulting in death could be jailed for up to five years and given a fine not exceeding NT$3,000.
According to New Taipei City Police Department’s Traffic Police Corps, a taxi driver surnamed Kuo (郭) was sentenced to seven months in jail in 2010 after he faied to stop by the side of the road and alert his passenger to oncoming vehicles, resulting in a female motorcyclist surnamed Hsu (許) being paralyzed for life.
Kuo was also obligated to pay NT$12 million (US$380,000) in compensation for Hsu’s injuries.