async="src="/ Taking the Long Way Home: Defensive Running: How to Protect Yourself from Distracted Drivers

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Defensive Running: How to Protect Yourself from Distracted Drivers

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Back in the dark ages when I was taking drivers ed, the teacher made one statement that has stuck with me to this day. "Drive defensively", he said. "Always be prepared that the other driver isn't paying attention."

Well, who knew Mr Mihevic could predict the future? Or, at least driving as it is today? On my 5 mile commute to my office, I pass many cars with drivers using their phones--to talk, to text, and for god knows what else. It's dangerous and it's illegal.

It isn't just driving that is risky. While this post is directed at runners, I've experienced more than my share of near misses with cars while on the bike. Either way, bike or on foot, we are no match for a two ton mass of steel that is moving forward towards us.

It's all physics, my friend...



Over the years, I've had my share of close calls with distracted drivers while I've been running. I've been in the crosswalk when a car has failed to stop at a stop sign. Another time, I had a close call when a van either didn't see me or decided to try to beat me. Sometimes it feels like a game of chicken, me vs the car, to see who is going to move first.

You know what I do. Because I'm not going to win the game.

I'll wait. If the driver is in that big of a hurry, then yep, go on ahead.

While I was running this morning, I came up with the idea for this post. I didn't have any close calls but there were a few cars that didn't want to stop for me while I was in the crosswalks.

Here are some suggestions I have for keeping yourself safe from distracted drivers while you're running.

Go Bright or Go Home
Have you driven through a construction zone lately? Seen what the workers are wearing? Yep, that's what we need to wear. Sans the hard hat. Or maybe not. You get the point. We need to be VISIBLE. So that means loud clothing. Neon, reflective, bold clothing. If you run in the early morning or late afternoon/evening, you better be sporting your headlamp, your handheld flashing lights, and your glowing vest. Be seen, be safe.


Don't run wearing headphones
If, like me, you insist on running with music, then make sure you are paying attention and following all the rules I listed above. When you wear headphones, you're focusing on the music and not your surroundings. Try to be mindful of what is going on around you.

Run during the day
You will be the most visible during the daylight. As I noted above, if you have to run in the darkening light, make sure you are visible.

Look both ways before you cross
What did your mama tell you? Never assume that the driver is going to stop for you. This morning, I had to cross a few streets and I hesitated at each crossing. At two of them, the drivers waved me on. The other crossing, nope. He just sped through.

or dance. You can always dance.
Make eye contact with the driver
That is exactly what I did on all my crossings. If the driver doesn't look at you, he's not seeing you. I've been in the crosswalk when drivers didn't see me, much less the stop sign.

Run on the sidewalk. If you can't run on the sidewalk, run facing oncoming traffic.
There are spots on all my running routes where I have to run on the road. One, in particular, makes me nervous every time. This spot makes me nervous when I'm driving. That's because it's a blind spot and cars turning can't see what is around the corner. Running here requires me to be diligent. And I run on the side of the road into oncoming traffic. It's not optimal, but at least I'll be seen. The sidewalks in my neighborhood are in really bad shape, so I am often on the road. I follow the same common sense rule.

If you have a close call with a distracted driver, don't retaliate. Make sure they see you and run on.
I won't lie and tell you I haven't punched a car or 2 when they've almost hit me. Don't be that runner. We want goodwill towards all runners, which means being courteous and gracious. Even if the driver is a huge jerk. It's a battle you won't win. Kindness is contagious.

A bit much?
Did I miss anything? How do you deal with distracted drivers? I know it's frustrating!
Don't get hit by a distracted driver! Staying safe on the run /via @oldrunningmom  #runchat 

I'm linking up with Tuesday Topics: Zenaida and Kim host this fun linkup! And with Debbie and Marc for Coaches Corner.






30 comments :

  1. My good running friend just almost got hit with a car when she was in the cross walk...She fell and broke her elbow & finger(elbow needed surgery.)

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  2. One of my biggest fears every time I run outside is distracted drivers. Granted I always run when its light outside, but I still worry. Sometimes my run crew thinks I'm over cautious but I'd rather check, double check and triple check before crossing the street.

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  3. Always important tips for running outside especially this time of year when people aren't expecting to see runners outside as much. I always try to dress in bright colors and typically never run with music.

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    1. I always run with music--I do try to pay attention to my surroundings, tho.

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  4. Making eye contact is always a big one for me. One of our running friends recently got injured in a sort of car related accident (thankfully the car didn't actually hit her, but she had an injury that still required surgery).

    Also always just assume that they don't see you. And watch out for those blind curves and hills!

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  5. Yes to all of these - and I haven't punched a car but I have done the huge WHAT THE HELL move with my arms up in the air. I never assume a vehicle sees me...and sadly I'm correct most of the time.

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    1. I've done that What the Hell gesture too. I used to think that it would bother them if they hit me, but with all the hit and runs lately, I'm not so sure.

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  6. You brought up some good points. I will admit that I do run with headphones but am also aware of my surroundings. I've had a few drivers stop to let me cross (a few even have backed a bit) but others just speed up in a hurry. I always wear a headlamp and my vest (which is very bright too).

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    1. I've had a mix of drivers who let me run across vs those who try to beat me. The crosswalks by the bike path where I run have yield to walker/runners signs too.

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  7. I always watch for the car coming up to an intersection who is turning right on red. I run outside the crosswalk anticipating them pulling into it. Besides I have my dog running on my right and I don’t want her to get hit either. 🙄

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  8. Although we run in a group and we are pretty hard to miss, cars will still not always stop for us. I always try to make eye contact before crossing. Sometimes, I just use my stop as a rest :)

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  9. Wendy, this is such an important post. We do need to watch out for distracted drivers. I have run with (male) running friends who have either yelled at or gestured to distracted drivers who get a little bit too close for comfort. That is scary too - you never know what kind of nuts are on the roads.

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    1. It's so easy to react to the jerks who almost hit us. But it's better to let it go. You never know who's out there.

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  10. Like you, my paramount rule is to never assume others see me. FOr my early morning runs, I have the Noxgear vest, Knuckle Lights, and (sometimes) a glowing belt and arm bands. When I run with Barb, we look like a circus act, but it's a necessity. In the daytime, I try to make eye contact as well as slow down if I see a car coming. One can never be too cautious!

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    1. It's so better to look "foolish", being all lit up than to risk being hit! Go bright or go home!

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  11. We've had too many incidents of runners being hit by cars. I run on the sidewalk or quiet neighborhood streets and assume any cars don't see me and/or won't wait. If I do cross in front of a car, I try to make eye contact. Running on the sidewalk, I like to run against traffic so I can see cars turning right head on. Otherwise I don't think people turning right are looking for pedestrians coming from the right.

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    1. I've noticed that when I'm crossing the street that turning cars don't even notice me!

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  12. All good points. I always wait and am sensible - all my group are and we even know one set of lights as the Caroline Lights as that particular lady started us off running a bit further down to them rather than nipping across. Better to wait a bit and rest than be squashed.

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    1. LOL to naming the lights! But sounds like a very good idea to be cautious.

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  13. It's SO hard not to retaliate!!! I don't do it but I have to ball up my hands! I've had plenty of near misses, a lot of them on the bike because your moving with traffic and at a much faster speed, so I'm always more careful. I think making eye contact with the driver is one of the most important things. I don't make a move until I'm sure they have seen me. I'll take the slowdown time on my pace for my life thank you :-)

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  14. Yes to all of this! It can get crazy out there. I've had close calls running and actually had to lay my bike down once because someone made a left turn in front of me when I was riding my bike. My husband has crashed twice because of cars, fortunately not because they hit him but by turning in front of him.

    One thing I always do is acknowledge the good drivers, the ones who wait for you. I toss them a wave and a smile and hope that helps them keep good thoughts about runners.

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    1. Yes! I forgot to mention that, but I do give a friendly wave when drivers actually stop and let me go through.

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  15. Yes! Great tips. Keep your competitive edge in the race, not with the traffic.

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