Running is a great way to stay healthy and active, but it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to ensure your safety. One of the biggest dangers for runners is the risk of being hit by a car. What can you to do lessen your risk?
To avoid being hit by a car while running, you should wear bright and reflective clothing. Most accidents happen in areas of low visibility, so make yourself obvious and stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Always use designated running paths and routes, and face traffic if running in the street. Follow all traffic laws and signals.
Read on to get specific tips on how to avoid car-related accidents while running.
How often do runners get hit by cars?
Running on roads used by vehicles definitely comes with some specific risk factors.
While it is impossible to say for certain how many runners are injured or killed in car-related accidents each year, the numbers make it clear that you should be aware of the dangers of running near traffic and act accordingly.
According to the CDC 7,000 pedestrians were killed by cars in 2020. While it’s impossible to know exactly how many of these pedestrians were runners, it clearly displays the dangers of participating in pedestrian activities close to moving vehicles.
Internationally, the risk for pedestrians increases dramatically, with the World Health Organization reporting that over 1.3 million people die each year in traffic-related accidents, and over half of these fatalities involve vulnerable participants such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.
Most likely, runners make up a significant proportion of these figures. This is why it is extremely important to keep your safety at the forefront of your mind each time you decide to run on roads designed for motor traffic.
Where do runners usually get hit by cars?
It’s probably obvious that runners who keep to parks and tracks are unlikely to be injured by a motor vehicle during their daily run, but where are they most likely to be hit?
Runners are more likely to be hit in low visibility times and areas, and in heavy traffic. In both cases, it’s less likely that the driver isn’t paying attention and that they simply won’t be able to see you until it’s too late.
Runners typically are hit by cars in areas where visibility is low. This could be a poorly lit rural road at night or a blind curve or hill which obstructs the motorist’s vision until it’s too late.
Similarly, low-light times are riskier than in the middle of a clear day. Personally, I tend to run at night more often during the summertime to avoid the heat so I always have to adjust my running style and gear to adapt.
Additionally, runners in high-traffic areas have an increased risk of being hit because of the greater number of vehicles in close proximity. The more cars that travel on a particular road, the higher likelihood of a collision with a pedestrian such as a runner will eventually occur.
When running, remember to avoid these types of areas to decrease the likelihood of finding yourself in a motor vehicle-related accident. You can also purchase specific bright-colored or reflective clothing to increase your visibility to automobile traffic at night.
Don’t get hit by a car backing out of a driveway
One special note here that you might not think about – being hit by cars backing out.
If you run in residential neighborhoods often, whether it is on the sidewalk or the road, you’ve probably had at least one near miss from a car backing out of their driveway.
While most drivers pay pretty good attention to what is happening in front of them, many don’t look behind them. This is especially true when they are backing out of somewhere they don’t usually expect to have a collision – their own home!
Are car accidents with runners usually fatal?
While the likelihood of a fatality is much higher for a pedestrian-involved accident than for a dual automobile crash, whether or not a car accident with a runner is fatal depends on several factors.
The most significant factor in a fatal collision between a pedestrian and a motor vehicle is the automobile’s speed at the time of the collision. Cars traveling at a higher rate of speed will, by nature, be more lethal.
Additionally, the location of the crash on the runner’s body will also play a huge role. If the runner is hit by a taller vehicle such as a truck and becomes trapped under the wheels, the possibility of survival is not great.
However, smaller vehicles may propel the victim over the top of the car which could increase the victim’s chances of survival.
Of course, any crash causing a runner to hit his head on the pavement will not contain a high probability of survival. In general, being hit by a car as a pedestrian has a high fatality rate. It’s best to put into practice different strategies to avoid this situation if you plan to run on roads designed for vehicles.
How to avoid being hit by a car while running
There are various strategies for making yourself more visible to motor traffic and staying safe while running.
To keep yourself out of harm’s way while running, you should:
- Wear bright and reflective clothing
- Run facing traffic
- Stay alert and avoid distractions
- Use designated running paths and routes
- Follow traffic laws and signals
Let’s look at each of these tips in more detail.
Wear bright and reflective clothing
When running, you should dress for the situation – this includes both the weather and where you’ll be running. If you’ll be running around traffic, ensure that your clothing stands out.
Wearing bright, visible clothing and reflective gear can make it easier for drivers to see you, especially during early morning or evening runs when visibility may be low.
Run facing traffic
When running on the road, run facing traffic. While it may not be federal law, it’s on the books in many areas.
When running on the road, it’s important to run facing traffic when appropriate so that you can see oncoming cars and take evasive action if necessary.
Running facing traffic also gives you other advantages, such as not running the risk of being beside a turning vehicle, on either side.
Stay alert and avoid distractions
Being aware of your surroundings is probably the single most important thing you can do to avoid injury of any type while running.
Avoid using headphones or other distractions that can take your attention away from your surroundings. Stay alert and be prepared to react to potential hazards.
Check out this article for all the pros and cons about running in headphones.
Use designated running paths and routes
As much as we all like running on the road, did you know it’s actually illegal in most places if there’s an option to run on the sidewalk instead?
Whenever possible, choose routes with designated running paths or trails to reduce your risk of being hit by a car.
If you’re not sure where a running path near you is, this website will help you find one!
Follow traffic laws and signs
You wouldn’t climb into your car, speed through the streets, ignore stop lights, and then be surprised when you got into an accident, would you? The same is true for when you’re out for a run.
As a runner, it’s important to follow all traffic laws and signals to ensure that you are visible to drivers and that they know what to expect from you.
This includes using crosswalks, looking both ways before crossing the street, and following traffic signals.
Remember: being more vulnerable means you should be more aware of traffic laws, not less.
- About the Author
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Joshua Bartlett is a professional amateur when it comes to running – basically, he takes his mediocre running ability very seriously.
As the Editor-in-Chief at Saltmarsh Running, it is his job to make sure that readers get only highly-researched and comprehensive questions to all of their running questions.