Safety Tips for Runners and Walkers

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Two weeks ago while I was out for a 5 mile run on a busy street in my neighborhood, I saw another runner coming at me approximately 75 feet ahead. While I was running facing the traffic, she was running with the flow of traffic. In my 3 years of running I have always run against the flow of traffic--the reason, I want to see the driver, just in case the driver does not see me; at least this gives me the opportunity to jump out of the way.

As fate would have it, a car coming at a fairly high rate of speed for a residential street, was making a bee-line right for the other runner. I was screaming at her to jump the curb. Thankfully she did and avoided getting hit, but the driver had no clue what could have happened, she was too busy on her cell phone and was not paying attention. Let me tell you, there were two runners quite shaken up. She picked herself up and I picked up my heart.

While I spent the better part of the next 3 miles thinking, I realized I have made many mistakes while running on the roads and thought I would share a few tips to make us all safer runners and walkers.

  • Map out your route: I am fortunate to have a Garmin Forerunner 405 with GPS but after this incident it dawned on me that while I knew where I was going, my husband would have no clue. If something happened to me, he would have no idea where to even begin to look for me if I did not return home. Therefore, from now on I am going to be using the SparkPeople’s Fitness Maps, to map out my intended route and leave a copy with him just in case.

  • Bring a cell phone: Thankfully, I have never had to use mine, but one never knows. In an age where pay phones are few and far between and businesses are reluctant to let you use their phones, it is always a good idea to carry one with you in case of trouble.

  • Identification: Whether you carry your driver’s license in your pocket or wear a Road ID make sure you carry some form of ID on your person just in case you are rendered unconscious.

  • Run/Walk against the flow of traffic: As I mentioned earlier, I would much rather see a car then an inattentive driver not seeing me. In an age where people do everything in their car except drive sometimes, you must be on the defensive if you must run or walk in the street.

  • Dogs: While I have yet to encounter any vicious dogs on my runs, I have learned that the best thing to do if approached by one is to stop running/walking. A dog will be able to outrun a walker or runner any time so it is best to slowly back up away from the dog. Try to put something between you and the dog. If you have access to a stick or rock that may be a deterrent. And as a last resort, drop to the ground and curl up in a ball making sure you cover your face and head.

  • Wear Reflective Gear: Wearing some form of reflective gear, whether a hat, jacket, shirt, or button, especially at night or at dusk/dawn, allows others to visibly see you more easily. Anytime you can make yourself visible allows for better safety.

    Remember, always put your safety first. This will allow you to keep on walking and running for a long time to come.

    Have you ever encountered any dangerous situations on your runs/walks? How did you handle them? Do you have any other tips to offer?

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    Realy good article. 5 stars.
    I hate carrying things, even my camera which I always wish I had when I don't, and my CD player, which makes the time go faster but makes me less aware of my surroundings. I Do carry ID, some change and my cell phone, they fit in my pocket. I don't like to know where I am going; I see a new way and go.

    BUT I HEAR YOU. Safty First. Darn.
    OK, cell phone, leave map, carry a walking stick (Halt sounds like a good idea), change routine now and then, and just be aware, and when possible- walk with a friend.
    OK, the sun is shinning and I am going walking. Report
    Great advice thanks, I always tell someone where I am going, and carry my cell and ID. I got a bag for my bike for that reason. I always carry my camera too its nice to take pix of the lovely stuff one sees on a walk, ride. I love the SP maps they are really useful. Report
    I had the misfortune of having to identify a friend who passed away while on a jogging trail last year. I happened to the the 9-1-1 dispatcher who took the call about a "man down" on the jogging trail. One of the officers who responded called in the license plate on a vehicle a bystander pointed out to him as the vehicle he had seen the man get out of earlier. When I ran the plate it came back to a friend of mine. When I commented that I knew the registered owner of the vehicle I was asked to go to the emergency room to make a positive identification since he didn't have any ID on him. It was an awful experience. I wrote a blog about it on my Spark Page and someone responded to my blog with information about the Road ID mentioned by MNOX_1 and explained by MQADKISSON. My son runs cross country and I got one for him right away. I feel much better knowing he is wearing it when he runs. Whether you are running near traffic or running in a park, if you're running alone please have identification with you so the authorities know who to contact if something happens to you. Report
    I always walk along the river walk here in Tucson, varing my walk when I go. I wear a belt for my water and keys. One can clip a phone on there too. Best to be safer than sorry for sure. I don't have anyone who would know I was gone, not sure what to do about that....maybe file a route and leave it in the house...just in case! Either way will continue my walking, but this does give food for thought.

    I use walking poles, and feel pretty safe with them, as it would be easy to BEAN a preditor/and or a dog.

    Walking a paved trail yesterday alot an unknown route, DID bother me, as it goes through the country side known for Mountain Lions...needless to say, I was vigilant!
    GREAT Articile! Thanks Report
    Thanks, these are great tips.
    I like the idea of getting RoadID- may just buy a $6. dog tag at Walmart! I don't have anyone who would 'notice' I was gone for quite a while, so having an ID attached to my shoe makes sense to me. I'm often hiking trails out of cell phone reach, and am sort of anti carrying the darn thing when hiking anyway.
    I do wonder about the dog advice- but guess it makes some sense- kind of 'I'm not an alpha, you are ok' message. I would think it depends on the dog- and I usually give out major 'I'm the bloody alpha, bug off' vibe which stops most dogs! Report
    Glad I read about the site. It shows you how your elevation changes as you go, and that makes a difference here where it's somewhat hilly in places. Report
    I just want to add one more bit of info I came across. It is a good idea to vary either your walk/run times or routes from time to time, especially for women. A local police officer told me that he has been made aware that predators will many times stalk women walker/runner because of the predictability of their workouts. Just a thought... Report
    Another thing is that there are a lot of towns that don't feel sidewalks are important. We have been spending a lot of time at a motel in Green Bay and I do a lot of walking to take care of errands while my Husband has the car. There are only a few of the busy streets that have sidewalks in that area. And now one of those busy streets has some construction on it so the street and sidewalk are closed for several months. So to get to the stores I want to get to I have to walk on busy streets with no sidewalks. Some days I just dread going out walking while we are there. One day I was almost hit by a car and the rest of the walk that day I just was afraid. I got past that but the traffic can be so annoying when you have to worry about it so much. Report
    I ALWAYS walk against the traffic. We live and travel to areas where there are not a lot of sidewalks. But my closest encounters have been while crossing a street. People tend to look to their left for oncoming traffic before pulling out into an intersection. They don't always look to their right for someone in the crosswalk. One car actually brushed against my pantleg. I talked t a gentleman one day who's wife was killed in such a situation. They were out for a walk and the driver had stopped at the stop sign but was too busy looking left to see the pedestrians to his right. It also it a very good reminder to me when I am driving to always look to the right before pulling out into an intersection. Report
    I don't walk or run anywhere that doesn't have a sidewalk. There are parks and running trails just for that. Why exercise to live longer and take silly chances walking in the street because it is more convenient? I guess I'm lucky, all I have to do is cross the street to get to a nice grid of sidewalks. Just watch those driveways!

    Leaving a map of your route is a great idea. My husband actually got lost walking one evening in a nearby neighborhood. He had to call me to pull up mapquest to figure out how to get home in the dark. I just went and got him. Report
    One evening I decided to start out on my road, a two lane country road with little shoulder area, and run a 5K. My plan was to go until my Nike+ said I had reached the 1/2 way point then turn around and run back. It was still light out when I left, and for some reason I was having difficulty with my Nike+ and by the time I turned around it was getting dark. On some places the shoulder is very narrow and there's a drop-off on the side, so when an approaching car came upon me, I couldn't move off the road, to give it more room. I was nearly hit and was petrified for the remainder of the run. The next day in the gym, one of the other members recognized me and said her husband was the driver and never saw me until they were right on top of me. I realized then that my reflective strips on my shoes were not enough to warn drivers, and additionally, I never head out that late in the evening on my road, instead I head to the park where there are lights, and no cars! Report
    what a great article...i do a lot of walking, and while i live in a small, rural town, i've seen some close calls between walkers and drivers. i'm pretty sure it's illegal to walk with traffic, at least in Maine, if not everywhere...i always carry my cell phone just because you never know when you might need it. i think the thing that bothers me most is seeing people out walking after dark without any reflective gear. i was on my way to work one night (i work 3rd shift) and almost hit a guy dressed completely in black, from his sneakers to his hoodie. thankfully my headlights reflected off the guardrail so i caught a glimpse of him just in time. thanks again for the great story and for the ideas you gave us. Report
    I can't run w/my cell phone but I do run the same route. It's a park near my house where I have to run in the street and I run against the flow of traffic for the same exact reasons. I have to know what is going on. I also know many of the people whose houses face my running route, which is why I stick to it and don't change it up! Report
    Actually, yesterday while running I got caught in a pretty severe thunderstorm, I didn't have my cell phone. Fortunately, my boyfriend was worried about me and immediately left in his car and drove around until he found me and picked me up. I'm going to start carrying my phone with me, it is just such a hassle. I don't know where to keep everything? I need a fanny pack...ugh! Report
    I am a runner and keep aware of my surroundings. I have a cell phone plus everyone on my road is aware that I run. Country road stay running towards traffic and always looke behind me. Report
    I live in the country so I have a gravel road almost always completely to myself when I'm out walking. I also know where the dogs live and what farm places don't have dogs. I was attacked by a dog when I was 14, so I'm very leary of dogs I don't know. Report
    On a main roadway with the pedestrian light showing "WALK" I have had 4-5 cars come straight through a red light and almost hit me.
    What the heck do they think they are doing?
    Two teenage girls were screaming at their mom one day to stop and thank God they did or I would have been history!
    Drivers need to pay more attention instead of on cell phones and other distractions.
    As for dogs. I have had encounters with dogs rushing at my girl and I. And I will not curl up on the ground for any of them. I have stopped them in their tracks by yelling at them and calling their stupid owners all the words in my vocal range.
    So far so good.
    When there is an area that dogs are allowed on leash, and the owner lets them off to poop I get annoyed...
    Most of us are responsible owners... But yes there are people out there that have no idea how to keep their dogs under control, or how to pick up poop, or on a leash when required. Report
    I agree with Dramagirl42 - I was attacked a few years ago by a large, vicious dog on our wooded NH street, he came out of nowhere from behind me. If I had curled up in a ball on the ground, I am almost certain my injuries would've been much worse than the bite & bruising to my upper thigh I sustained. I was able to knock the dog off with my fists, and lucky for me a car happened by within seconds(the only car in the 45 min. I had been out walking-someone was watching out for me) because that dog was coming back for round 2! I grew up with dogs, my father raised and showed Australian Sheperds, so I never had a fear of dogs and I knew how to react in most situations, but I came to learn that I was the 3rd person this dog had attacked in 3 months...unreal. I was afraid to walk alone after that, but a neighbor who runs daily took me out a few times and helped me over that fear. She also advised me to carry a can of pepper spray or mace.....she told me it had come in handy on more than one occasion. Report
    Oh and one more thing... if you are going to walk with your dog, PLEASE pull them close to you when passing someone. I've luckily never encountered a vicious dog, but have passed quite a few friendly ones on long leashes who have gotten right in front of me to smell my legs and feet. Move to the side and they move with you. And the owners would stop and say "Come on now". I have to slow down my pace to try and get around without kicking or stepping on it accidentally. And on top of that, you may know that your dog is friendly - I don't.

    And if your dog is gonna stop to poop, please move to the grass. I hate walking on sidewalks covered in dog poop. Report
    I strongly disagree about how to handle a vicious dog. While I'm 100% against animal cruelty, any attacker should be treated with the same quick, disabling response - be it human or animal - or else you run the risk of serious damage. Laying in a submissive position on the ground won't necessarily deter an attacking dog and by placing all of your body within easy reach of snapping jaws you're far more likely to sustain deep, gouging bites than if you were to kick the animal away and keep yourself upright. While a ball can be protective, it still leaves the fleshy parts of your legs and some internal organs easily accessible. If you're standing, you might get hurt on your arms more, but that's preferable to your hamstrings or kidneys. Report
    Lots of people (myself included) walk/run/bike the loop around my neighborhood. It's a great a convenient path, and exactly 1 mile around. But there are a couple intersections where you have to cross another street. For the most part, the cars around here will stop a little further back to allow the walkers/runner/bikers to cross and not have to slow or stop their pace, and almost everyone's gotten so used to this that they don't even slow down to make sure the car will let them cross. Of course, this is dangerous because every once in awhile you'll get cars that won't stop. Luckily, no one's ever been hit, but I've seen some pretty close encounters. Report
    If you're going to run with your iPod, make sure you keep the volume low enough that you can still hear what's going on around you. Report
    Why run on roads with heavy traffic? There are parks here in Pensacola, and trails and at the least, back street residential areas. I wouldn't think of walking along a heavy traffic road. It just isn't worth getting hit by a car or truck. Report
    I have believed in walking/bike riding against traffic all of my life. I like the eye contact with drivers of vehicles. I have never understood the go with the flow rule..that is until last summer. I was driving my vehicle out of a grocery store parking lot onto a main road. My intention was to turn right. I pulled up and had to inch my way out more toward the street to see oncoming traffic before I entered the street. I was looking left of course at the oncoming traffic. Suddenly I heard something hit my car. A boy had intentionally hit it with his fist. He was riding his bike on the sidewalk there ...AGAINST THE FLOW OF TRAFFIC so consequently I did not see him. He was angry with ME because he had to quickly stop. Nobody got hurt but it was at that moment that I realized why there is a traffic flow all in one direction. None of us expect to encounter something like this that comes from another direction. Report
    I walk in a very rural area - I make a point to give a quick wave to all the drivers - one to be friendly the other - I think that little extra motion grabs their attention. During hunting season I bought a blaze orange vest like the hunters wear. Just in case someone is hunting in the woods along my route - I want them to make sure they don't mistake me for a deer or something else. Finally, I try to carry my cell phone with me too - There was a bear sighted near my walk route - just in case I encounter him - I want to be able to call someone to my rescue! Report
    This is in response to Foxxyluv's question to what is a Road ID:

    Road ID comes in a dog tag, wrist and ankle bracelet or a small velcro tag that can go on the laces of your shoe. It is a small metal plate in which you can place vital info. such as: name, blood type, emergency contact numbers, drug allergies, etc and/or an inspirational message. The site offers examples, ideas of what to include and common abbreviations to help make the most of your limited space. They cost about $20.00. If you are interested, you can even find $1-$2 dollar off coupons on-line.
    Here is the link:
    Report lets you map out your route on google maps (it can be a bit slow sometimes, though), and then you can leave it electronically for other people to know where you are going - without wasting the paper of printing something out! Report
    This was very helpful to me because I plan on running in the parks near where I live but I've a question; what's a Road ID? Report
    I had run in my country. The best time for running is really early, so the traffic is really little. That's my tip, to run at 5 am.Our weather is summer all year long,so is different there.I used to walk everywhere in my country for long distances,here I don't do it very much, but still I love to walk. I encountered two bicyclists on a bridge and it was dangerous.The bridge was really narrow. Report
    I'd highly recommend everyone out on the road get a RoadID. I just purchased one for my husband and I feel a little better each time he heads out the door with it attached to his shoe. I am going to order another one for myself now. Carrying a cell phone is great, but it can be damaged if you are in an accident and become useless, not to mention it can be thrown from you as well. After living overseas, it is always sad to see how horrible US drivers are about walkers/runners and even motorcycles on the road. I can't imagine that everyone is really "that busy" that it is worth taking a life by not paying attention or having to get around someone who is slowing them down. Overseas the non driver's have the priority and it is a bit safer, although an accident can happen at any time. Report
    That's why I run indoors at the rec center - never outside. Report
    I had an encounter with a dog once. I did what you said - I stopped and slowly backed away. He had gotten out of his backyard and I think he was just protecting the house. Report
    I tend to track licence plates for cars that attract my attention. If nothing happens, fine. If an occurence needs to be reported, the plate number is there. Just keep repeating it to yourself until you get a chance to write it down. This is also a good way of keeping your dye prescription up to date. Report
    Great tips! I wear my RoadID everytime I'm out, and highly recommend it to anyone who walks, runs or bikes.

    I have encountered dangerous dogs a few times while out, and I now carry "Halt!" to protect my dog as well as myself. It's a pepper spray that when sprayed causes a burning sensation in the animal's eyes and nose causing it to retreat. But it poses no long-term harm to the animal. It does work because I've had to use it a few times. I've never had to use it as protection against another human, but it would work in that respect as well. Report
    bikers need to obey all the rules of the road the same as automobiles here. But a lot a guilty of NOT. It is pretty scary even driving on some of the narrow roads, as bikers as SOOOOO CLOSE to the traffic. I am really happy that many cities have created bike and hiking trails. Report
    Great tips. I always run in the street against traffic and with traffic when biking. However, I usually have my kids with and make them stay on the sidewalk as much as possilble. Report
    In addition to letting my husband know my route, I take my cell phone and I make sure there is a card with my name, husbands name and our ph numbers on it...if I had allergies or heath info that would be there too....don't ever want to be found unconscious and unidentified! Report
    Know your route...often time there is road work going on in the warmer months. Watch out for pot holes and detours of traffic. Sometimes I drive my run or walk route to notice any changes, etc. I also usually leave a note on the table of what my route is and the time I expect to be back (something my parents taught me at a young age, it became a habit). Report
    I always run against the flow of traffic. I think according to the law you are not supposed to, but whatever.

    As far as dogs go, if you put something between yourself and the dog, wouldn't that prevent him from being able to sniff you? Report
    I was just thinking about this while I was out for a run this morning on a route that was new. I've always known to walk/run AGAINST traffic and to ride a bike WITH traffic - it just makes sense but I suppose there are some out there that don't know.

    One suggestion I would make is to make sure there is someone who knows your route - before you leave the house tell someone your route and your approximate time you'll be gone. Report
    You are right on when walking or running against traffic and not with it. I was out late at night just at the corner of my house and in the street and a neighbor zoomed past me a scary feeling of someone at night just zooming too close for comfort. Report
    These are very good tips for the walker/runner who uses the roads. Thankfully, I live near a park which has a jogging track and security so most of these tips would not apply to me. Report
    I was always told to face the enemy - either running or walking be in control of whatever situation may arise . As for someone knowing your route, that makes perfect sense too!! The one I have problems with is hitting the floor and curling up if all else fails with a dog attack - mmmmm not convinced about that one but the rest of the advice is spot on for me.... Report
    I had my own near-splat experience a few weeks ago. As a pedestrian, unprotected by a ton of plastic and steel, you must be ever vigilant - there are too many distractions for drivers these days: cell phone calls, iPods, radios, texting,etc. Even in an area with a 15 mph posted speed, drivers think they can multitask and no one will get hurt. I have just started walking in my home with DVDs for safety - I have to sacrifice fresh air, seeing my neighbors and the life in the great outdoors because some people just have to send a "LOL" text while driving. Shame, shame, shame. Report
    My trainer and I run in the neighborhood near the gym. There is little traffic and we always run on the sidewalks. Haven't "run" into any problems yet!

    I have seen early morning runners, this is at 5:30 am and it's still dark, running on the side of the 4 lane road I travel. I don't really mind it, but there is this one woman who will not move for anyone. The others with her move to the sidewalk when cars come, but not her. I know she's going to get hit someday, just for being so stubborn! Report
    I grew-up in the era when out bicycling you rode against traffic. I thought it was stupid when the state required bicyclist were now suppose to ride with traffic. Needless to say walking against traffic is a given especially when there are no sidewalks. I also always carry my cell phone with me even if I am just out in the yard. I also carry an expired driver's license when walking, I do this since one time I forgot to put my license back into my purse and end up going to work without it. I have left a map of my walking route but that sounds like a great idea. Thanks for sharing these great safety tips. I always feel it is better to be safe than sorry. Report
    This is so true. In an age where we see all the commercials about getting out and walking more, the roads are really pedestrian unfriendly. I have attempted to try to get a sidewalk put in on one of our busy streets where people walk and believe it or not, the residents have to pay for the portion of the sidewalk that will be in front of their houses. I have always heard that the portion at the end of your yard belongs to the state but when the state is going to put a sidewalk there, you have to pay for it. So I just play Russian roulette with my life everytime I have to use this street to get to the trail. Report
    I always walk with my cell phone - and I have several ICE (in case of emergency) phone numbers at the TOP of my phone list, so if someone opens my phone those are the first numbers. I've got them listed 1ICEmergency-Husb, 2ICEmergency-Broth, etc.

    Not all emergency workers know to scroll down to the letter I to find emergency numbers, so keeping those numbers labelled and at the top of your list helps. (I got that info from an EMT, so I figure she knows.) Report
    Thank you for these important tips. There should probably be a blog entry for biker safety too. I've seen a lot of near-misses involving cars and bikes. Report
    Thanks for the information. I learned something new here and I didn't know about the fitness map. Lots of great advice here. Report