The inside lock button usually shows red when the door is unlocked and usually locks automatically when the gear selected is moved into Drive or after a certain speed has been reached. James Halderman photo

Reader asks how first responders handle automatic door locks

Steve M. writes by email: “I learned to drive back in the 1960s. I was taught to keep my door locked because that would help keep it from popping open in the event of an accident. Is that advice really relevant today, with all the additional strengthening in the doors? If unlocked, at least it might help first responders to get the door open quicker.”

Great question. Today most vehicles are programmed to lock the doors when placed in gear or when driven above about five miles per hour. By locking the doors, the door latch is separated from the door handle. In an event of a crash this would prevent the doors from opening.

Here is what happens and why the doors are locked:

  1. In an accident (usually from the front), the movement can and will actually cause the door to open on impact.
  2. This prevents the proper operation of the seat and curtain airbags.
  3. With the doors locked and secured to the rest of the body of the vehicle, you are much more likely to survive a crash.