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PSA: Road Safety

10/06/2011

A few weeks ago running blogs/message boards/Facebook pages/websites were buzzing with the news that actress Reese Witherspoon  had gotten hit by a car while running. The story received a lot of press because she is famous but sadly this is far more common occurrence than people realize. Runners and cyclists are in constant danger of distracted or impaired drivers. The injuries are oftentimes fatal and those who do survive face devastating injuries. There is no greater evidence of this than the story of New York City Firefighter Matt Long. While his memoir The Long Run is inspirational, Matt Long never should have been a crash victim in the first place.

When I started running cross-country in high school we had to do a lot of training on our own including a long run on Sundays which I always often sometimes did. So in the 19+  years (wow, I’m old) I’ve been running on the roads I’ve seen a lot of a really bad driving. And I’ve had 4 pretty close calls that left me rattled–including one this morning. A driver was slowing down for a stop sign at the end of a small side street and was turning right. I was at the corner on her left–the way she would have to be looking for oncoming traffic and would, I took for granted in my bright orange shirt, see me. As I began to cross, she kept going, completely rolling through the stop sign. I had to jump out of the way to avoid her front bumper. It was only then–when she was merely inches away–that she saw me for the first time and slammed on her brakes. She did pull over and apologize. But we were both at fault–she was a poor driver and I had assumed that she wasn’t. Never assume.

Some runners don’t like to run before dawn because they feel that it is too dark and drivers won’t see them. But I’ve run at all times of the day and, aside from my incident this morning, I’ve found early morning to be one of the safer times to run. The worst is definitely 3:00-5:00 PM. You would think that will all the school bus stops and kids walking home from school, drivers would be more cautious but it is like the Indy 500 out there. Everyone is racing around and whenever I run at this time, I feel like I am living the video game Paperboy–and that’s running on the sidewalks. It’s pretty scary.

No matter when and where you run, be smart. We can’t assume–like I stupidly do–that drivers are alert, especially in the era of cell phones and text messaging. Another close call I had was with a cop who also rolled through a stop sign. After almost hitting me he shouted through his cruiser window laughing “Good thing one of us had their head up!” Yeah, not very “serve and protect.” While we can’t control who is behind the wheel and what they are doing, there are some precautionary measures to help be as safe as possible. Here’s some common sense reminders that runners and cyclists often forget:

  • Whenever possible, run on sidewalks. I know the asphalt is kinder on your legs than concrete sidewalks, but I’d rather have shin splints than the alternative.
  • If you do have to run in the road, run facing traffic so you can see the oncoming cars.
  • Wear reflective gear before dawn and after dusk. Don’t want to spend a ton? You can pick up a roll of reflective tape at Home Depot for less than $5 or a lightweight vest by New Balance for $10 at Target.
  • Don’t wear headphones/ear buds if you run in the dark. During the daylight hours don’t have your music cranked so loud that you can’t hear a car horn honking.
  • Follow the rules of the road–stop at stop signs, corners, and red lights.

Too many runners and cyclists have been seriously injured or killed by drivers doing the wrong thing. Please take care of yourselves out there.

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