SAFTEY FIRST, THEN TEAMWORK: HOW TO RUN IN THE DARK

Melanie Mitchell | October 9, 2017


NOT RUNNING IS NOT AN OPTION

Now that we’re officially in the pumpkin-spice-flavored fall season, daylight is in limited supply. If you typically log your miles before or after work, chances are you’ll be spending at least some of that time running in the dark. If that makes you uncomfortable, your options are to totally rearrange your work schedule so you only run when it’s light outside (probably not possible), stop running until spring (sounds dumb), only run on a treadmill (boring), or get smart about running in the dark (yes to this and keep reading).

ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?

As a writer, I believe it is important to expose any bias, or skewed perspective, I might have upfront. I must admit, as a big dude, my own personal safety is rarely a thought that crosses my mind. In a dark alleyway, I’m typically the person someone is scared of, rather than the other way around.

Acknowledging this vantage point, when conducting research for this article, I was pretty surprised to find a substantial batch of testimonials from runners who are fearful of running in the dark. Most of the fears surround being attacked by a person of ill-intent. While not the central focus of this particular article, allow me to summarize the primary recommendations to prevent a tragic scenario like this from occurring:

  • - Safety in numbers: Run with a partner or group in a public place
  • - Be accessible: Carry a phone and your ID
  • - Have a deterrent: Attackers typically prey on those they deem as easy targets, and as such, are not interested in a fight. Carry mace, make noise, and learn a few self-defense moves
  • - Stay aware of your surroundings: Don’t explore new routes in the dark and ditch the headphones (or wear one earbud and keep the volume low), so you’ll be able to hear trouble approaching



My intention in providing advice here, is to keep as many night-runners as safe as possible. Therefore, I wanted to use data and statistics to find - not what people are most afraid of but - what actually poses the greatest danger during a dimly-lit run: Being hit by a vehicle.

AMERICA'S MOST-PREVENTABLE TRAGEDIES

I almost killed a runner with my truck last week.

Eerily-timed, given that I would be writing an article about running safety this week. Coming back from the grocery store around 8pm, I was traveling down a 2-lane road at the posted speed limit, 45 MPH. There was no sidewalk on either side of the road. There was no one else in the vehicle and I was not distracted… no texting, no messing with the radio, no daydreaming. As another car, on the opposite side of the road, passed me, my vision was temporarily diminished by their hyper-white headlights searing into my retinas. As my eyes were readjusting, I noticed a faint glow in front of me that glinted with the pale luminosity of a firefly on a bad day.

At the absolute-last-second, I realized it was the reflective heel clip of someone running in front of me. Instinctively I swerved towards my left, across the center line. Only looking back, was I (briefly and vaguely) able to identify a human silhouette dressed in all dark colors. Thank goodness an accident was avoided this time. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed due to auto accidents in 2016, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. Furthermore, the National Safety Council states “the chances of being struck and killed as a pedestrian increase by 1,100% after dark,” with the most dangerous hours between 6 - 9 pm, the time after work when most runners take to the roads.

If we remove fatalities from the equation, the statistics become even more outrageous: According to a 2008 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, “On average over a 2 year period, nearly 1 million runners, walkers and cyclists were hit by motorists.” Meanwhile, only 40% of runners make any attempt to be visible in the dark. The Federal Highway Administration succinctly summarizes the point, “Nighttime pedestrian accidents and deaths are America's most preventable tragedies.”


SEE & BE SEEN

If you’ve read any of my articles or blogs before, you know that I like to focus on the solutions rather than dwell on the problem, so let’s shift to that. The Federal Highway Administration clearly recommends reflectorization, with studies proving that the risk of being hit by a motorist in the dark is 800% lower when wearing reflective running gear. In fact, among all the factors of running that go into running in the dark, what you wear is the element you are most in control of.

Depending on the weather, a reflective running vest or a reflective running jacket is a great place to start. As the temperature drops and you continue to bundle up, ensure your top layers aren’t covering up your reflective gear. Look for running tights, hats, and gloves with reflective elements.



It bears mentioning here that reflectivity only works if there are headlights on you. Therefore, our optimal solutions for safety need to include both reflective running gear and lights. If you don’t want to manually carry lights, a running headlamp is a great solution. If you want your head free and clear as well, clip-on lighting solutions exist that you can place on your shoes or just about anywhere.

To make things easier for you, our JackRabbit experts have compiled a collection of their favorite visibility accessories here. Whatever method of reflectivity and lighting you choose, remember being seen is being safe. By being visible during your night runs, my wish is that the only statistic you have to concern yourself with, is breaking personal records!



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