Just over a year ago I got the devastating news that a friend and coworker was struck by a car while out on a run. She, along with a friend, were running in their neighborhood as they normally did. They were running on the sidewalk, theoretically safe from vehicular traffic, when tragedy struck. A driver, distracted by something, jumped the curb. Stephanie’s legs were crushed in the accident and she suffered such a traumatic brain injury she was taken off life support within a day. Just like that, she was gone. To this day I still think of her every time I lace up my shoes and head out for a run.
Not long after her passing, I was asked to be a guest blogger for a friend and wrote the following post. With the 1-year anniversary of her passing, I think it’s a good time for another safety reminder. By all accounts, Stephanie and her friend were doing everything right the day of their accident. They were not running on a busy road, they were not dodging traffic or engaged in any risky behaviors. This is exactly why we need to be extra vigilant while out on a run. While originally written with runners in mind, these reminders are great for cyclists as well (and I added in a few extra tidbits for my riding buddies).
Be safe out there!
(The following was originally posted September 2013)
Assume You’re Invisible, Make Yourself Seen
This summer I tragically lost a friend when she was hit by a distracted driver while on a run through the neighborhood. Her legs were crushed and she sustained severe brain injury – they took her off life support within a day. In trying to heal from this, I have decided to do something positive with this event by using it to bring attention to how important it is for us, as runners and cyclists, to always watch out for ourselves. Hopefully, by passing along this advice, we keep the rest of our community safe on the streets!
Part 1: Assume You Are Invisible
- The only safe assumptions you can make are: No one sees you & no one will stop for you.
- Even if you have the right a way … don’t go until you make eye contact with the driver and the driver waves you on. If you are concerned about your pace and don’t want to stop, choose a route where you won’t cross a street.
- Notice your surroundings. Drivers aren’t paying attention to you, make sure you are paying attention to them and try to anticipate their next move … be ready for anything they may do.
Part 2: Make Yourself Seen
- As runners, we are not known for our fashion sense (and, cyclists – let’s be honest, it’s spandex) … embrace that! Wear bright colors and outfits that don’t match … STAND OUT! Kris says he’d rather have drivers laughing at his outfits but seeing him, than go unnoticed and have to dodge cars. (Kris would also like to point out that is NOT him in the picture.)
- When running or riding in low light and at night – wear reflective gear and flashing lights. Draw attention to yourself. (Photo was taken with the flash from an iPhone- car headlights would illuminate me from a good distance away!)
(This is an example of a great reflective vest you can find from www.ruseen.com)
Other Safety Tips:
- Stay off the streets as much as possible. If available, run and ride on trails, canal paths, greenbelts … places where there aren’t cars.
(Greenbelts are GREAT! There are usually a lot of people around – playing at the parks, running, walking, bike riding. They also normally have restrooms and water available at some point. And, most importantly – no motor traffic!)
- If you must run along a street – use the sidewalk and/or stay as far from the road as possible. I know people think it is better for you to run on the asphalt than on cement … studies show most of us will never notice this difference! It isn’t worth the risk!
- If you must run in the street – run opposite traffic. That way you can see who is coming towards you and are able to move as needed. This is also for the safety of cyclists – anytime a runner is in the bike lane, cyclists have to share a lane with motorists and put themselves at a greater risk. If you are going to run in a bike lane, please pay attention to cyclists and give them the right-of-way. Cyclists and pedestrians should be working together to keep everyone safe!
- I highly suggest you don’t wear earbuds and if you do, keep the volume low. You want to have full use of all your senses. I can’t tell you the number of times Kris and I have scared runners while on our bikes because they had no idea we were coming their way even though we announced our presence.
- Obey traffic laws, signal your intentions and be as predictable as possible. Motorists already don’t have a great perception of us (most motorists really don’t like cyclists) – we don’t want to give them valid reasons for it.
- As much as possible, run and ride with buddies … The more eyes you have scanning for trouble, the better. Plus, if anything were to happen – you have help!
- Wear a RoadID
- If you’re going out on your own, take a cell phone
- Tell someone where you are headed and when you should be back. Check your GPS system – our Garmin 220s offer runner tracking. RoadID also has a great app to notify a loved one when you head out and where you’re going.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: It doesn’t matter if you had the right a way … if you get into a battle with a car, the car will always win. I know it’s frustrating and there will be times you want to prove your point because drivers don’t always give us the space or respect we deserve … IT’S NOT WORTH IT! Ultimately, when we hit the streets for a workout, our main goal should be to make it home safe!
Please be safe out there!