In any battle of runner vs. car, the runner is at a distinct disadvantage. In fact, it is a battle best avoided at all costs. I learned this the hard way while on a long run in NYC years ago. Back then, I had a warped impression that stop lights ceased to apply to me once my running shoes were laced up. Fortunately, I came away from the incident with only minor bruises and a renewed realization that the rules of the road most certainly apply to runners.
This seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes it is easy to forget the importance of safety when we are out there logging miles and feeling a runner’s high. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind:
1) Be visible. This is rule number one and it applies at all times of day, in all types of weather. Wear bright colors, even in the daytime. When running at dawn, dusk, or at night, be sure to don reflective or illuminated gear. A driver, cyclist, or fellow pedestrian is far less likely to collide with an obstacle they can see.
2) Choose the least dangerous option. When running in busy areas, the sidewalk is your friend. Choose to stay out of the road if it is an option. Whether alone or in a large group, it is always safer to be out of the way. If you must run on the road, remember to keep to the left-hand side facing oncoming traffic so cars can be actively monitored. Keep to a single file formation when running in groups on the road or congested areas.
3) Obey the traffic laws. Just because we are not surrounded by four wheels and tons of steel does not mean we as runners are not bound by traffic laws. Obey traffic rules and signals. Cross at cross walks or traffic signals whenever possible and be aware. Sometimes drivers neglect to look both ways. Be especially wary of cars making a right hand turn since they often will not notice you coming. Stop and wait for them to turn (I like to wait for eye contact with the driver) or go behind them. Avoid challenging cars at an intersection or for position on the road.
4) Be proactive and alert. Always run with a form of identification. If running alone, let someone know your route and estimated run time. Consider carrying your phone. You never know when it might come in handy, as I was recently reminded upon turning an ankle in a torrential thunderstorm (thank you to the kind Cobb’s Hill homeowner who saved me from electrocution!). Be careful of extreme fatigue, lapses in concentration, or the feeling of invincibility that comes with a runner’s high – these could all adversely impact your judgment. Make use of your ears as well as your eyes and avoid wearing headphones while out on the road.
5) Remember karma. Don’t forget to be a safe driver when you are behind the wheel as well. Be kind to the other runners out there and give them a little extra space.