At a race earlier this month, I bumped into a running friend who told me one of his New Year's resolutions was to work to improve runner safety. The following week, he sent me an e-mail addressing a specific concern:
"For many years, I have dreaded some of the streets that I consider dangerous to runners due primarily to the right on red light. I see runners running on busy intersections taking a green light as the only thing they watch and making no provisions to cars looking in the opposite direction from them, looking for an opening to take the right. Needless to say, it is still the responsibility of the driver to assure safety for all when quickly turning on a red, but should any runner bet their health, and possibly their life, on the whims of a driver in this situation?"As a Runner's World subscriber, my thoughts of course drifted to Liz Robbins' terrific article about runner safety in the January 2010 issue, "Collision Course." In it, she also mentioned how such situations at intersections can be dangerous -- or deadly.
"The driver begins to turn right on red. As he accelerates, he looks to his left for oncoming cars -- but not to his right. The runner must anticipate that the driver is not looking out for him, and move to the sidewalk ASAP."On Facebook, I asked how many runners had encountered this particular problem out on the roads. Among the responses:
- "Has happened to me a few times. Now if there is a car getting ready to turn right, I will make sure that they acknowledge me to go in front of them. If not, then I will make sure and go behind them."
- "Was hit last year by large SUV at stop light. He was pulling out to the right at the red light and was looking left. I came from his right and bounced off the hood."
- "This has happened to me so many times. I know to wave my arms so the driver sees me and acknowledges that I'm going to cross."
- "Most drivers making a right turn never look right. Almost got hit by a school bus once who didn't look."
- "I was hit by a policeman as he was pulling out of a convenience store. He stopped way short of the sidewalk, so I thought he had seen me. As I passed in front of the car, I saw he was looking back to his left at traffic and then started to pull out. He never looked up until I jumped to try to clear his bumper/hood and he caught my back foot and spun me around. I am VERY antsy now at all intersections; doing the eye contact/arm-wave dance, and also waiting for an acknowledgment from the driver."
Of course, one woman pointed out that the first line of defense is leaving that iPod at home if you're running the roads. And a couple guys noted that careless drivers can be avoided altogether by running on a greenway or trail.
What do you think? How do you keep safe on our roads? Which ones do you avoid? Do you run with music? Do you try to run only on paths away from traffic?