Unfortunately most runners don’t live in a perfect world where winding paths, endless trails and lonely desolate roadways are located right outside our doors. I’m not sure of the number, but I would guess a high percentage of us are forced to run on crowded, busy and at times very unfriendly roads. Sharing your run with a 4000 pound plastic and steel monster can be very scary and down right damaging if your encounter gets a bit too close for comfort.
Unfortunately I’d like to say that all encounters between runners and traffic are the fault of the vehicle operator but I’ve witnessed many a runner who could have done more to be safe while they shared the open road.
Five ways runners (and walkers) can be safer while running on roads (with traffic).
- RUN FACING/AGAINST TRAFFIC. Running facing traffic is a fundamental safety rule. As basic as this sounds…I’ve seen a number of runners who discount the most basic running rules and put themselves in great harm by running with the traffic. Running facing traffic provides a clear visual of the traffic that is approaching you. Plus facing traffic also allows you to see if the driver is doing something that might compromise their ability to see you, i.e. texting, eating, or fidgeting with the radio. I want every chance I can get to avoid an encounter with traffic and running facing traffic provides an eyes on target approach to avoid a close encounter.
- WEAR BRIGHT COLORS. My son once asked why I was so bold to want to wear bright and neon colors when I ran. I told my son my color selection had nothing to do with style, fashion or being bold and had everything to do with being seen. My favorite street running apparel is whatever color and degree of brightness will give me a better chance at being seen.
- MAKE EYE CONTACT AT INTERSECTIONS. Anyplace where my path and that of an oncoming car, truck or horse draw carriage may cross, I make it a point to establish “eye to eye” contact with the operator before putting myself in harms way. I want to make sure they see me and my “I’ll sue you if you hit me face.” If I cannot establish good eye to eye contact, where I truly know they see me, I step to the side of the road and stop running until they pass.
- DITCH THE IPOD. I saved this one for near the end because I know it’s not going to be popular. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve avoided being hit because I could hear the world around me. I could hear the road noise, or the sounds of the gravel being displaced. If my ears where filled with Bon Jovi’s “Running on a prayer” a prayer may have been just what I needed after I was hit. The sounds around you play a vital role in keeping you safe, don’t block them out.
- REMEMEBER THE CAR YOU DON’T SEE IS THE ONE THAT IS GOING TO HIT YOU. When I have talked with people who have been hit or nearly hit while running, they nearly always tell me “I never saw the car that hit me.” The majority of times runners are hit by something they never saw coming. I remind myself of that at each and every intersection I come upon. “Okay Brian, you see the easy cars look for the one you don’t see…”
Running is a great way of life, an outstanding community and maybe the best exercise for weight loss. Running can also be very dangerous…take these five steps to help ensure your safety while running on the busy, crowded and often scary streets we must share with the world around us.