, Salem, MA


September 27, 2013

On The Run: Keep your head up while you're on the road

It seems like every time we turn around, there’s a new cautionary tale to tell about motorists and athletes on the road.

The latest one occurred last weekend, when two North Shore cyclists were killed in Hampton, N.H. after a motorist drifted into the opposite lane and slammed into them. Police have arrested the driver in the incident and charged her with negligent homicide and second degree assault. Whatever the outcome of the upcoming trial, the case is a horrifying reminder that the roads can be incredibly unsafe at times.

Just about every runner can relate a story about nearly getting struck by a car while out on a run. Sometimes it’s the driver’s fault; sometimes it’s the runner’s fault.

But let’s not waste time pointing fingers. Ultimately, runners owe it to themselves to take extra care on the roads. It’s not just motorists you need to watch out for; there are also plenty of cyclists out there riding at higher rates of speed than you.

The safest course of action would be to stay off the road entirely and stick to the treadmill or trails. But that’s not going to happen, nor should it. Here are a few common sense things to consider as you get your miles in on the road:

Take heed. It’s important to pay extra attention to what’s going on around you while you’re out running, because nobody else is going to do that for you. Never assume that a driver pulling off a side street or backing out of a driveway can see you and will stop for you. That could be a painful mistake on your part.

Headphones. Many runners use headphones while running, but the fact remains listening to your iPhone or iPod is a distraction. If your reaction time is a split-second slower because you’re listening to a song or podcast, that can be the difference between seeing an oncoming car and getting hit by it. I’m not advocating banning headphones, because I often listen to my iPod when I’m out for a run, but it definitely makes sense to keep the volume a little lower so you can hear a little more of the surrounding noise. Whether it’s a car horn, somebody yelling out a warning or a dog growling, you definitely want to be able to hear and react in time.

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