By Capt. Michael Geneser
Jogging serves as an excellent conduit to release the excess energy accumulated while staying at home. However, running outside carries its own bevy of risks that must be mitigated. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that in 2018 6,283 pedestrians were fatally struck by a vehicle, accounting for approximately 18 percent of all traffic fatalities. Of these, 73 percent occurred away from an intersection, and 75 percent happened in periods of darkness. Tragically, these incidents are often due to a failure to use proper precautions and are easily preventable.
Runners should attempt to stay on sidewalks as much as possible. In areas where a sidewalk is unavailable, try to run facing traffic. This allows for both drivers and runners to see each other well in advance of any potential collision.
Crossing a road represents one of the greatest hazards while running. Surprisingly, intersections represent a minority of pedestrian-involved automobile accidents. This stems from the preventative tools used at intersections to facilitate foot traffic. Cross walks, lights, stop signs, and other methods applied at intersections make walking across the road at these locations much safer than jaywalking. Additionally, utilizing the “look thrice” rule when crossing a road ensures that cars outside of one’s immediate peripheral vision are noticed before stepping onto the asphalt. To utilize this technique, look for traffic coming from the direction closest to the curb, then look the other way, and finally check one last time in the direction closest to the curb.
With the advent of wireless headphones, runners are blessed with convenient music during their outings. However, running with earbuds can restrict situational awareness, preventing pedestrians from hearing warning signals, like a car horn, before an impending accident. Runners should set out with only one headphone. This will allow them to hear both their music and their surroundings.
Avoid running in darkness or fog. The majority of pedestrian-vehicle accidents occur in the early morning or evening, as drivers often struggle to see people on the road due to low visibility. Runners should remember to wear bright, reflective clothing to alert motorists at these times.
Have a plan for emergencies. There are numerous ways to help a bad situation from turning worse. First, run with a cellular device. If something happens on the route, emergency services are immediately available. Whereas, someone without their phone would be forced to return to their starting point before reaching out for assistance. Running with a partner is also advised for similar reasons. In the event of an accident or injury, a partner can help acquire an ambulance. If a partner is unavailable, let someone know your route and expected timeline, so that you may be found if necessary.
On Fort Leonard Wood, the garrison specifically closes off several roads from 5 to 6:30 a.m. so that all service members are free to more safely run. Taking advantage of these road closures is an effective way of avoiding the risk of vehicles entirely.
For more information on pedestrian or jogging safety, visit the NHTSA website at https://www.nhtsa.gov/road-safety/pedestrian-safety, or contact the Fort Leonard Wood Safety Office at 573.596.0131, ext. 60116.