Along with cooler temps and pumpkin-flavored everything, come shorter daylight hours and running in the dark. While it’s true that most pedestrian fatalities occur in the late hours after sunset and before sunrise, with the right gear and preparation you can stay safe and have a fun nighttime run, too. Here’s how:
Running against traffic is the best way for you to see cars and for cars to see you. Whenever possible, run on the sidewalk.
Reflective clothing and gear are a passive light source because they enable others to see you and increase your visibility by several hundred feet. Where you wear it, though, matters as much as the reflectivity itself.
Wear reflectivity on all sides of your body—360 degrees—so that cars can see you from every direction. Since your arms, ankles, and feet move the most while running, place key reflective pieces there to make it easier for drivers to identify you as a moving pedestrian.
Active light sources aid your vision and increase a driver’s ability to see you by six-fold. “Blinkie lights” as Ellen Brenner—co-owner of Fleet Feet Sports Rochester, NY—calls them, are an excellent source of active lighting. In fact, in an effort to make safety a priority, she requires that all of her fall training program participants buy and wear them for every evening workout.
Wear blinkie lights on the front and back of your body (clipping them to your reflective vest works well). Additionally, always wear a headlamp or carry a flashlight, even if you’re running in a well-lit area. This will illuminate your path and also alert oncoming traffic.
We always suggest running with a friend or group if possible—safety in numbers! However, it’s unlikely you will be able to pair up for every run. So, get into the habit of letting your partner, a friend, or a family member know when and where you’re going running, and when you expect to be back. For this to be effective, make sure to tell them when you get home, too.
It’s up to you to pay attention. Kate Schwartz, a North Carolina runner who advocates for safe nighttime running says it’s important to be as defensive as possible. “Drivers are often so distracted by their phones, and when you add darkness into the mix, running roads become especially dangerous; Drivers aren’t expecting runners to share their space.”
In short, obey traffic laws, stay on well-established routes you already know, and plan ahead.