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Safety Tips for Exercising in the Dark

By , SparkPeople Blogger
This weekend most of us around the country will be turning our clocks back which will allow us to have that extra hour of sleep we gave up last March. However, with the time change comes a challenge when exercising in the darkness of the night or early morning hours. Whether you are a runner, walker or cyclist, the shorter daylight hours can pose a factor in keeping you safe while working out.

A few weeks ago I received an email from one of my favorite online running stores, Road Runner Sports, with the following statistic in the by-line--"122,000 Runners, Walkers and Cyclists are hit by cars each year." This statistic was provided by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. And while this statistic did not differentiate between day and night time exercisers, it is important that we all, not matter what time of day or night we exercise, be a defensive exerciser.

Last year I wrote a blog on Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers in which I briefly mentioned the need to wear reflective attire when running. Not wearing proper reflective attire can make it very difficult for anyone to see you, therefore, it is important for you to wear proper attire and take precautions when working out at night, especially if you are exercising at dusk when the sun has not fully set. Just know that many drivers, regardless of the gear you are wearing are not attentive, which means you have to do all you can to keep yourself safe.

Measures to Take to Keep You Safe

  • Be sure to wear a reflective vest so that this makes you more noticeable to drivers.

  • Wear reflective bands on arms and legs if your workout gear does not have reflective strips. The reason, the motion of the reflection when running, walking or cycling makes you more noticeable to drivers at night.

  • Wear a headlamp so that you see the path in which you are running/walking. It also makes you more noticeable to drivers.

  • Wear blinking red lights, both the front and back so that others see you.

  • Always carry an ID or invest in a RoadiD which allows you to have all pertinent information on your person should something happen.

  • Do not wear dark clothes as this makes it more difficult for drivers to see you.

  • Make sure you run/walk against the flow of traffic. This allows you to see cars coming in your direction which will allow you to get out of their way, if the driver fails to see you.

  • It is best to run or walk with others, but if you must run alone, make sure you let someone know your route and always carry a cell phone.

  • Vary your route from day to day as well as avoiding places where perpetrators can hide, such as trails and heavily wooded areas.

  • Always stop at intersections and allow drivers the right away, even if you arrived to the intersection first. You must assume that the driver may not be aware of you, therefore taking a few seconds off your training run to let the cars go may save your life.

  • Do not run with headphones. You want to be fully aware of your surroundings, especially when your visibility is restricted.
Safety is our number one priority whether exercising in the heat of summer or the darkness of winter. Just remember that no matter what time of day you choose to exercise, become a defensive exerciser. Always assume that a driver will not see you, so you must do all that you can to make yourself visible. And always be aware of your surroundings. If you feel unsafe trust your intuition. It's better to cut a run, walk or ride short if you feel something is not right than to put yourself in harm's way. We want to keep all our SparkPeople members safe.

What precautions do you take to keep you safe when exercising at night? Do you have any of the items mentioned earlier? Do you have any other ideas to offer?

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RACHNACH 5/26/2021
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CKEYES1 1/4/2021
I don't walk at night Report
Great article. Thanks! Report
JUNETTA2002 10/10/2020
Thanks for sharing. Report
Good info.. remember to be vigilant, others are not always looking. Report
NASFKAB 8/28/2020
Great Report
I don’t run, but often walk at night, not on roads or populated but in my walking path around my hay fields. You do have to watch out for skunks in the path and the occasional coyote, and I carry a flashlight. Report
Great info that each of us should know! Thanks for sharing this one. Report
Great Article
Amazing article shear thanks and join the / windows dvd player free install and enjoying watching the videos thanks. Report
You can do it! Report
thank you Report
great article Report
Thanks for the info Report
Thank you ! Great Tips! Report
Glad you mentioned lights as well as reflective gear - for reflective gear to work you have to be in range of the car's headlights... with your own lights the driver can see you from much further away (stopping distance!!)

I wear both reflective gear and lights even when running bike paths in the park - have nearly been hit by bicycles! Report
I wouldn't even think about exercising at night. I live in a suburban area that is normally regarded as safe, but a couple years ago a woman did get raped while running alone in the afternoon in one of the local forest preserves. If I walk by myself it is now only in sight/earshot of homes. I wouldn't even think about venturing out after dark. Sad, really sad, that this has to be this way. Report
I don't exercise in the dark but really appreciate this safety tip. Report
It's really hard for drivers to see you if you're walking on a public street in the dark. If you must get out, please follow the advice in this article. It's too easy for drivers that are trying to drive safely at night to come upon you unexpectedly and if you're in dark colors, how are they supposed to see you? Report
I agree that we should trust our intuition. I was running on a neighborhood Hike and Bike trail, about to enter a wooded area when I noticed a man move from a park bench facing the parking lot to a bench facing the trail. Made me feel uneasy. I turned around and ran the other way. He may have been perfectly harmless, or maybe not. I'm glad I didn't find out.
By the way, paramedics know about Road ID and where they are typically located (wrist, top of shoe, necklace) They do look for them. And the Road Id site does a great job prompting you as to what info to include, and even lets you personalize with a slogan or symbol. Report
I wouldn't think of exercising out near cars in the dark. The DEAN at AUBURN UNIVERSITY was just killed this week when hit by a car at 5:45 AM and the friend she was with was seriously injured.. Report
I only exercise in the morning or afternoon outdoors. If I exercise at night, it is in the house. Report
Because of my schedule I have to run in the morning and the end of daylight savings time will actually make it lighter for me, at least for a short while. I wear white running shirts, white sweatbands, and reflective shoes. I also make sure that my entire route has street lights. I only run in the street if there is an empty parking lane, or a bike lane, otherwise I run on the sidewalk, or on the gravel shoulder. The streets are fairly empty, but I have seen a few cars run stoplights because of the lack of traffic so early in the morning, so I always make sure drivers see me and are stopping before I cross the street in front of them, or, usually, I let them go first, even though I have the right-of-way. Report
My outdoor workout "outfit" now consists of a reflective vest with a light in the back (use it when on my motorocycle or Vespa as well); a small LED flashlight on a lanyard around my neck that I turn on as dusk settles in; my iPhone clipped to my waistband with ICE information; "hard" IDs and health insurance card in my pocket; and mace clipped to my waistband as well! Oh, I am also carrying a CamelBack backpack or a small bottle of water for hydration and a "sweat cloth" hanging from the waistband of my pants. I kind of laugh to myself everytime I go out...I do "inventory" before I leave by telling my husband what I have with me and then do a double check and double bow knot of my drawstring pants to make sure I won' t be tripping because my britches fell around my ankles from carry all that paraphenelia!

One thing that really ticks me off though is that, by law, pedestrians have the right of way and regardless of how careful I try to be, there are inconsiderate, uneducated, self absorbed individuals who do not exercise common courtesy, safety or right of way when they are on the road. OBTW I walk on the sidewalks in my neighborhood EXCEPT where (too frequently) people have parked their cars across the sidewalk rather than on the side of the road so there is no other option but to go around them via the street. I actually had someone flip me off when I stopped, looked and started to cross and this joker came across traffic onto the road I was crossing! So you really can not be too careful! Sad state of affairs, BUT I won't let that stop me from making progress or "hitting the road" (so to speak)!!! Report
I walk with my headphones on but I have a pet tag I had engraved at the pet store on my MP3 player's case with my name, number, provincial health care number, blood type and I can't remember what else. If they have my provincial health care number they should be able to figure just about anything else out about me. The tag was less than $5, I think, and it matches my case. (Girlie girl that I am!)

We're kind of lucky because we have a large provincial park close by that lots of people walk, run and bike in. Only problem is that it is inundated with mosquitoes in the dim hours. You'd more likely have to worry about them carrying you off than most other dangers. Report
I wish people would not run/walk on roadways. Period. I've almost hit a few who would not get out of the road and I was coming up over a hill, another car was coming from the other way. There was no where for me to go. I have to use a road to get in the neighborhood behind my house. When a car comes, I stop and get completely off the road way. Report
Great info! Report
roadid is what i wear - it may be pricey but its reflective, so the dual purpose is what sealed the deal for me. regarding other safety items, i find it VERY difficult to purchase these items in stores - and this is boston, so there are a TON of runners and cyclists! i'm finding more i just need to be able to afford it. in the meantime, a white t-shirt over my running gear is the best i can do when i run late...daylight savings time is a real bear for my workouts! Report
Rather than the pricey RoadID bracelet, I wear a pair of custom-printed dogtags when I exercise. One has my personal ID info (including blood type) and the other has my ICE contact info. I get mine from Report
Thank for the ID info. I'm ordering one right away. I've always been concerned about that. I walk with my iPhone which has ICE (in case of emergency) but maybe no one would look at that. Report
I live in Florida and we hear everyday about someone getting killed (hit and runs, mostly) while crossing at a crosswalk. We see people, daily, walking with their backs to the oncoming traffic (these are older people that should know better). I don't understand why they do this. I know I have made comments trying to remind them to wear light colored clothing, not black, or use reflective devices and/or flashlights, but they seem to be deaf to the warnings. If you don't care about yourself, care about those who love you that are left behind, saddened by your passing and wondering why you refused to use your brains to good. Report
I don't run along roadways. It makes me too uncomfortable. I came close to being hit twice. It seems drivers just don't see you. Report
Thanks for the link for the ID bracelet. I've been looking for just such a thing. :) Report
Great points! Also, remember that you as a pedestrian or cyclist can see a car MUCH more easily than the driver can see you. You may see a car; however, the driver might not see you. Report
My husband and I walk or run in our neighborhood at night, so we invested in bright yellow jackets that have zip-off sleeves to turn them into vests, plus we have hats that have lights built in. Our running clothes and shoes have reflective strips as well, so we're as visible as we can possibly be--though I still pay attention to cars and stay as far out of the way as I can. You can never assume that they will see you, no matter how visible you try to make yourself! Report
I realize I am in the VAST minority. But my experience is that I'd rather not be seen. I do not run along roads - but sidewalks after dark. Over the years I have had beer cans thrown at me, a car of guys pull over and act like they were looking for trouble, and cars think it was fun to come close. I have preferred not to be seen - it seems safer to me. I can see the car, better they cannot see me. Report
This is an excellent article. My brother actually bought me a reflective vest to wear when I go running at night. Report
Judy802's comment is applicable in Wisconsin also. I have some lovely running clothes in Blaze Orange so I'm not mistaken for wildlife. Report
Good tips but I exercise in a nearby park so this would not apply to me...but it does help when driving on the roads to avoid hitting pedestrians, cyclists, etc. Report
Thanks for the tips! Report
An especially important reminder about not wearing headphones, Nancy! Bad peeps are fond of stealing iPods around these parts... Report
Here in Maine we have to think about adding blaze orange to our exercise attire. Hunters are out early to wait for game and anything moving at dusk or dawn is a potential target, especially with inexperienced hunters or those who don't know the area and may not realize how close to a road They are. Report
I always wear a reflective vest, and so does my dog. She is black and I am afraid that just a blinking collar would not be enough. I carry a flash light and my cell, but will have to do something about the ID... Report
I wear a reflective vest & carry a flashlight. My dog wears a lighted collar. Report
I run with a small group of women in the early AM. We all have small white and pink lights we attach to various zippers and pockets. "Sarge" tells us we look like Christmas trees when we run ahead. I also carry a small flashlight and when a car approaches, I sway the light back and forth in front of me so they can see it as they approach. Report
I ride frequently in the dark commuting to work. It is important that your red light NOT be blinking. It seems logical that a blinking light will attract more attention, but the blinking light actually disrupts the depth perception of the driver. Keep your lights on steady! Report
Because of my schedule, I can walk any time of the day so I no longer walk at night, but there was a couple of years when I did. I have a reflective vest and had a flashlight which was to be worn around the head hanging around my neck. Since I took my dog with me I got him a reflective vest as well, then added more reflective strips. He is a long haired dog so the blinking collars didn't work for us since his hair covered the collar completely. I also chose to walk on walking trails which the town I was living in had and one of them started about a half a block from my house. Report