When on the Road, Run Defensively
Once fitness improves, it becomes necessary, sooner or later, to run on the roads. Once that happens, you become exposed to the runner’s greatest enemythe car. I have lost two friends who were knocked down and killed while running; another three were lucky to live after cars hit them. As the number of runners on the roads continues to escalate, the potential for these tragedies only increases.
Many of these tragedies can be avoided, as shown by A.F. Williams (1981), whose study of American runners revealed that collisions between joggers and automobiles typically occurred after dark when the jogger was running on the road in the same direction as the traffic. Most often, the runner who was struck was running abreast of another runner and was closest to the road (A.F. Williams, 1981). In only 27% of the cases were the drivers primarily responsible for the collisions, and in most such cases, the drivers were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Thus, in the vast majority of cases, the jogger was either totally or partially responsible for the collision. Adherence to the following simple rules will greatly reduce the risk of these tragedies (Osier, 1978; A.F. Williams, 1981).
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Adopt a defensive attitude when running on the road.
Constantly watch every oncoming car, and listen for cars coming from behind. Be ready to jump to safety at the first indication of potential trouble.
Always select roads with little traffic and very wide shoulders.
Run facing the oncoming traffic.
Run on the edge or shoulder, not on the road itself.
Run in single file or not more than two abreast. Large running groups are particularly dangerous, especially when runners are on both sides of the road. When this happens, the drivers of oncoming cars are unable to drive onto the edge in the case of an emergency.
If you must run at dusk or at night, choose a safe, well-lit route and wear Clothing of bright, visible colors with reflective material attached. Osier (1978) wrote, “Yellow, orange and red might not be the colours you prefer
From the standpoint of fashion, but you must make yourself as visible as Possible to motorists. Never wear blue, brown or dark gray” (p. 59).
Be especially careful when you are tired. Fatigue impairs the concentration, slows the reflexes, and seems to make runners feel they are indestructible, a combination of factors not unlike the effects of alcohol intoxication.
The most worry some situation is, as Osier (1978) pointed out, the overtaking car that comes up from behind runners on their side of the road. The nearest I have ever been to being hit by a car has always occurred in this situation.
I was not always as careful as I now am when running on the roads. But I have learned my lessons and have (I hope) grown up. Nevertheless, I remain gravely concerned by the needlessly cavalier attitudes that many runners have toward road safety. These runners seem to act as if they own the roads, and they exhibit extreme arrogance toward other road users. This attitude is not only unnecessary but is extremely stupid. For in an accident with a car, the only loser is the runner, regardless of whether or not that runner is at fault.