Over the time that I have been back to running, I have been hearing all the complaints about how many bad drivers there are in cars, from other runners online.
I have to admit I have had a few incidents myself. Were I have felt the need to salute certain drivers in what I thought was an appropriate response to their actions, stupidity or carelessness.
However, for the most part – I would say that 98% of the drivers on the road are pretty decent about sharing the road with runners. Where I live and run in Maine, there are not a lot of tarred shoulders or sidewalks and if you get off the road, you are either in a ditch, dirt or high grass. Most drivers I have found will try to move over and let you stay on the road – when they can.
That is the big point – when they can.
- If another vehicle is coming, they have to stay in their lane and it always seems that the two vehicles meet when right beside a runner. Murphy’s Law of Running in Traffic.
- If a vehicle is going up a hill, they have to stay in their lane.
- If a vehicle is coming to a corner, they have to stay in their lane
- If a vehicle is in a blind turn and suddenly come up on you, it sucks to be the runner.
At those points the runner needs to be aware of where they are and regardless of how much it destroys their rhythm or pace, get off the damn road and let the vehicle go by – for everyone’s safety, especially their own.
However, many times this past summer, when I have been driving by runners in those situations, they don’t yield and have caused unsafe conditions for me as a driver, other vehicles and them as runners. Then they give me that wonderful one-finger salute, because I couldn’t move over the center line at that point and time due to safety reasons, not because I was being an asshat.
As a courtesy when I see fellow runners on the road I tend to slow down, especially when I see more than one, however, when one of the conditions I listed above are happening and the runner does not yield and get off the tarred road, it becomes a dicey or dangerous situation. Yes I know that sometimes getting off the road isn’t fun and it is easy to twist an ankle or knee, but it is a lot better than getting hit by a vehicle.
So runners while there are crazy/stupid drivers out there, from what I have seen there are also a few crazy/stupid runners, who create unsafe conditions on the road as well. I believe that most of us have experienced both.
My tips for running safely in areas where there is traffic and only dirt, grass or ditches on the shoulder are:
- Run facing traffic. You want to be able to see what might be coming at you.
- Don’t be arrogant and think you own the road. Just because YOU happen to be running don’t believe that you have the right of way in all situations – YOU don’t.
- Be aware of traffic – you can hear them or see their lights on the telephone wires a long time before you see a vehicle.
- Visibility can the driver see you? Are you wearing bright colors that contrast with the surrounding area, is it dawn, dusk or night time while you are running? Are you carrying a light of some kind?
- Be aware of the traffic coming up on you from behind (especially in a passing zone), a car might be passing another and take the piece of road you are running on. Remember to listen for traffic behind you as well as in front of you.
- Know where you are and areas that could be dangerous for drivers (i.e. hills, corners, driveways, etc.). Be proactive in these areas for your own safety and don’t endanger others.
- Road conditions and weather can make a difference in how drivers and you react while on the road.
- If running with a group on a busy road go single file in areas with a lot of traffic or areas where sudden vehicle confrontations might happen without warning – danger zones
- If you are running with headphones on have the volume turned way down. A better idea when running in these areas is not to wear your headphones or music.
- BE PREPARED TO GET OFF THE ROAD AT A MOMENT’S NOTICE.
It also doesn’t hurt to wave a quick thank you to the vehicles that do go out around you – as a simple courtesy. Who knows they might be more willing to give up some of the road to you or some other runner again next time, if they see us as being courteous to them?
Be proactive about your possible encounters with vehicles – if you notice a vehicle, tractor trailer or dump truck coming towards you and it isn’t moving over, don’t force the issue. Get off the damn road for your own safety. There maybe a vehicle that you can’t hear coming from the other direction.
The reality is that
Runners really need to think about where and what they are doing while running, especially where road shoulders or sidewalks are non-existent.
I don’t mean to sound like I am bashing runners, because I definitely am one and run on the roads a lot. At the same time runners need to be aware of situations that they sometimes put themselves into when running in traffic.
If we all think back, it isn’t always the vehicle’s fault for the confrontation we have had. What could you have have done differently, before the situation occurred. Would it have been easier to have stepped 3 feet into the dirt shoulder or ditch and then resumed your run, rather than forcing an unsafe condition to happen and reacting with the middle finger wave if you survived it? I think many times this could be the case.
I know I hate reading about runners being hit by cars and don’t want any of my fellow runners to become just another statistic.
The bottom-line is that in a car/runner everyone looses, but the runner is the one that will most likely end up in the hospital or morgue, if they are hit by a vehicle.
Keep running, but run safely and be aware of where you are.
- What do you think, have you encountered runners being inconsiderate when you are driving?
I know that most of us all have had bad encounters with vehicles, but looking with 20/20 hindsight have you ever contributed or created a dangerous situation while running? I have.