Thursday, May 16, 2013

Avoid getting hit by a car

Drivers can't always see you

The majority of drivers I encounter while running or cycling are courteous and careful, and I try to do my part as well by running or riding defensively, obeying traffic laws and avoiding dangerous situations--such as heading out during high traffic, low visibility or generally dangerous times of day, such as rush hour and when the high schools start letting out. 

But it only takes one careless driver to ruin your run/ride, your day or your life . . . if they don't end it altogether. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 2011, 677 cyclists were killed, an 8.7% rise from the year before. To honor cyclists killed in traffic crashes, the League of American Bicyclists created Every Bicyclists Counts,, and data from the site is used to highlight trends, including particularly dangerous locations, and to promote safer driving techniques. 

Pedestrians are no better off. NHTSA reported 4,092 fatalities in 2009, and while state and federal agencies do not track pedestrian accidents specific to runners, Runner's World reports that more than 40 runners have been killed since 2004. 

Don't let his happen to you!
Or this!

Unfortunately, drivers are becoming more distracted behind the wheel. A 2009 Harris poll found that 72 percent of Americans use their cell phones while driving and a 2008 Nationwide Insurance Company survey revealed that nearly one in five drivers text when operating a vehicle. But even if the driver is at fault, when it comes down to a runner or cyclist verses two tons of steel, steel is going to win every time. 

Drivers are distracted
One of the most dangerous situations I've encountered while running is right-turning vehicles.  When a car is turning right onto a roadway from a driveway, side street, 4-way stop or right-on-red intersection, the driver almost always pulls into the road or intersection and begins a right hand turn while LOOKING LEFT! And where are runners in this situation? On the right! I see it happen all the time and I'm particularly alert to this potential danger because I've almost been hit on three separate occasions in exactly this way, and as recently as yesterday

"Right turn, Clyde!" 

Yesterday I went out for a 40-minute run that included 16-minutes at threshold pace. In deference to my aging joints and bones, and the abuse I will inflict on my body this year as I prepare for IMAZ, I've been trying to do at least half of my running workouts on the track. So I ran to the local high school track, maintained a decent threshold pace on the forgiving surface as light rain fell, and was on my way home when it happened:  

I was in front of the high school at a 4-way stop intersection and had deferred to all the waiting vehicles before running across the intersection in the crosswalk when an oncoming car pulled up to the stop sign, rolled through the intersection, and proceeded to make the dreaded "right turn while looking left" without stopping or looking right. (In the picture below, I was in the #2 position, though I was running in the intersection toward and parallel to the car, not approaching from the right as shown.)    

Intersections are dangerous

Adrenaline shot through my body and I somehow managed to unearth a few of the rare quick-twitch fibers within my body and jack-rabbited onto the curb while hollering lake a crazy person. Luckily the driver didn't gun it and was moving slowly enough for me to get out of the way, though I only cleared the front bumper by about two feet. Too close for comfort to be sure. I made eye contact with the driver who looked mildly dazed and never came to a complete stop. I'm not sure she even realized what (almost) happened.

So, be careful out there. Train safe, and be smart. For more tips on how to avoid getting hit by a car while running, check out this article from Runner's World:

Additional information for cyclists can be found at:

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