Getting (or staying) in shape is an excellent goal, and running is one of the best ways to reach it. This cardiovascular exercise works most of your muscles, improves your heart health, and promotes better sleep.
The best part is that you can run anywhere, even on your local roads, with no expensive equipment necessary. However, if those roads are frequently busy, it’s smart to invest in some safety precautions.
Running is supposed to be healthy, but it can also be perilous. According to this article by JT Legal Group, more than 14,000 pedestrians are injured yearly in California alone. Many of these victims set out for a run to better their health and ended up with significant injuries instead.
You don’t have to skip the exercise if your nearest running route is a busy road. Follow these tips, and you’ll benefit from running while staying safe.
1. Pay Attention to Road Rules
You’re not in a car, but you’re still responsible for following all the rules of the road. You must stop at stop signs and wait for the lights to show it’s your turn to cross the road. Pedestrians walk and run against traffic flow so they can see oncoming vehicles and drivers can see them.
Many runners think they’re supposed to move with traffic, but that’s reserved for cyclists. Research shows that this simple change reduces your chances of being hit by a car by 77%. If you’re on foot, the rules (and common sense) say you must be moving opposite the flow of traffic.
2. Use the Sidewalk
Sure, you’re entitled to run on the road. But do you really want to take the risk of being hit by a car when there are perfectly good sidewalks available?
This sounds like another common sense safety tip. Yet, you’d be surprised how many runners prefer the road and don’t mind causing traffic congestion if it means they don’t have to run on the sidewalk or in the grass. It’s dangerous for you and the cars.
3. Stay Alert
There are thousands of products geared toward enhancing your running time by pumping music and motivation at you. These all have one thing in common: they’re distracting.
When you have headphones or earbuds on, the sound may be motivating you, but it’s also blocking the noise of traffic. If someone needs to get your attention, you can’t hear them.
Worse are the runners who scroll through social media, text, or are otherwise visually distracted by their phones. Keep your eyes on the road and your ears free to hear the sounds around you.
4.Cross at Designated Areas
The nearest crosswalk or intersection could be a few hundred yards away, and your destination is on the other side of the road now. Should you wait for an opening in traffic and cross, or keep running?
The law — and your safety precautions — say keep running until you come to the next designated crossing area. Drivers expect to see pedestrians at these stopping points, and they’re on the lookout for you. When you try to cross during a gap in traffic, you may not make it to the other side before an unsuspecting driver barrels through without slowing down.
If there isn’t a crosswalk or intersection, look for an area that has plenty of lighting and gives you the best view of traffic in both directions. Wait until there’s a wide space between cars, even if you have to run in place for a few minutes. As you cross, continue to watch for cars. They have the right of way, and although they should let you cross, that doesn’t mean the driver is paying attention and sees you.
4. Make Yourself Seen
Speaking of getting seen, the final safety tip is to do your part to ensure the drivers see you. You can’t assume that the driver knows you are there because you’re on the road.
Since you’re on the opposite side of the flow of traffic, make eye contact with each driver before they get to you. Wear brightly colored clothing, and if you’re running at night, invest in a headlamp and/or reflective material.
As you’re crossing a driveway or parking lot, be mindful of vehicles entering and exiting. The drivers are watching for other cars, not pedestrians. It’s your job to make yourself visible and wait for an opening that gives you the chance to cross safely.
Safe running habits are a mix of following the laws of the road and your choices as you interact with vehicles. Stay in sight of other drivers, use sidewalks when possible, and do your part to make it home and enjoy the long-term benefits of your regular running routine.