Can we talk?
I regularly see posts in my online running groups where runners (and cyclists) are hit and often killed by those in a motor vehicle. Most of the people operating the motor vehicle are drunk or distracted drivers. Outrage ensues after each of these instances, and rightly so. I really got my start with running when I heard of one such story – that of Meg Cross Menzies, who was hit by a drunk driver during a morning training run. With every story I see, it reminds me that first and foremost, life is very precious. You never know when your last moment will come. But it also puts me on high alert when I go out and run, trying to ensure that I make it home from that outing.
Distracted driving a serious problem; it includes driving while trying to accomplish something else – eating, drinking, putting on makeup, changing the station on your car radio, checking the navigation system, texting or using a cell phone (as a few examples). Anything that takes your attention off the road is considered distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed 3,477 lives in 2015 alone, while a further 391,000 were injured from distracted driving in the US. I guess when there are 660,000 drivers using their electronic devices while driving during the daytime, accidents – sometimes horrific accidents with deadly results – are going to happen.
When it comes to drunk driving, we’re still in a bad situation. Drunk driving is responsible for the deaths of 28 people in the US every day. That is one person every 51 minutes!
I am clearly very sensitive to this topic. It has shaped my view on safety when I am out on a run. I do everything I can to ensure I am alert to my surroundings and anticipate what is happening when I run. I want to make it home to my husband at the end of every run.
But I’m calling out all those who don’t make their own safety a priority.
Last night, on a two miles drive home from yoga, I saw three people enjoying the cooler evening air – one person on a bicycle and two runners. It was pitch black, and I almost didn’t see any of them. Let’s look at what was going on:
- No lights or reflective strips
- Dark clothing
- Typing on a cell phone
- Riding in the road, going against traffic
Runners 1 AND 2 (amazingly, they both were doing essentially the same no-no’s):
- Dark clothing
- No lights or reflective vest (one runner had two small pieces of reflective material on his shorts – whatever the manufacturer put as part of the style)
- Running with traffic
- Both headphones in
- One runner didn’t check traffic before he ran across an intersection
And sadly, last night was not the only night I saw this; in fact, I see this on a regular basis. Every day. While there have been deaths of runners and people on bikes in the Cayman Islands, I’m honestly shocked that there haven’t been more. When people blatantly don’t take their own safety very seriously – combined with the terrible driving we see here – sad situations can happen. I cringe when I see runners acting like no one else is around – they are taking unnecessary risks. As a driver, I have almost clipped runners who didn’t look to see that a car was turning and assumed that I saw them. And luckily, I was alert enough to stop mid-turn and allow them to continue. Even more amazing to me, the runner never looked at me once during that whole episode.
We share the roads, folks, and if we want to continue sharing the roads, let’s be sure to live up to what the other person expects of us. When I drive, I use extra caution when I see a runner or someone on a bike, and when I run, I pretend like I am invisible to drivers, as if they can’t see me, and behave accordingly as I navigate my run.
This isn’t to blame anyone; rather, it’s to remind everyone that no one cares about our personal safety like we do. Please take time to ensure that you are doing everything right to ensure your own safety. I really want to continue hearing about your amazing running experiences in the future. You may have had the right of way in any given circumstance, but you could also be lying in a hospital with serious injuries or worse no matter how ‘right’ you were.
What other safe running tips do you have to share? Please let me know! I want to hear them all! These are important.