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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    VHAYES04 7/28/2020
    Ty Report
    VHAYES04 6/12/2020
    Great ideas Report
    2DAWN4 6/4/2020
    I enjoyed the tips and article but I also enjoyed the comments and hints from the other sparkers. Report
    GRAYGRANNY 5/5/2020
    I walk against traffic. It is country roads but some cars think these roads are the Indy 500. Between them and right now fear of running across a bear I stick mainly to driveway but do go further on occasion.....but I am very cautious...sometimes just not willing to deal with any of it and stick to my good ole Health Walker Report
    NANASUEH 4/11/2020
    thanks Report
    The link to Sparkpeople Fitness Maps is a dead end. Report
    I walk on our trail that is frequented by walkers, runners and cyclists. But, there is also lots of wildlife since it loops outside of town. Also, we have corn fields on the trail which are favorite hiding places for fox and other animals. Last year I had a fox follow me home. Right now, I'm trying figure out how to protect myself if one gets too friendly. Right now my walks are mainly at dawn and dusk which are favorite times for some animals. Report
    Another tip: Never Ever trust a car that is backing up or preparing to back up. As you walk behind them, they may NOT see you. Just be very cautious! Report
    Dearly Beloved and I walk with sticks - even on paved trails. One of our last encounters with unleashed dogs in an area that is posted that dogs must be on a leash was when we walked past three great danes (2 men) and one dog turned around and started walking toward us growling. We had done nothing to the dogs or men other than to nod 'good afternoon'. Both of us were ready to use our hiking sticks to defend ourselves but it was unnecessary. We both practice what we need to do in situations. Report
    I echo all of the things said here. I am very fond of my RoadID as my ID I have invested in. - On two occasions - where I did not bring my phone - I twisted my ankle and if it had been serious I was potentially not able to call for assistance. My phone is on 'silent' when I run.

    I always wear bright colors when I run and I always - light or dark (exception is events) wear reflective wear, and (riding or running) my DW always know my route and anticipated time I will be gone.

    I regularly use running as a commute and I have found when running against the flow of the traffic I need to be careful when people are turning right out of their driveway. They pay attention to the traffic pattern from the left, but since they are turning to the right , they are less attentive. Report
    One of reasons I don't want to run around at my neighbourhood is there are lots of stray dogs. I'm always scared of dogs and if alone, I might be petrified to move. Even parks are not quite safe for dog phobia like me. The "I'm not afraid of you, dog, so begone" act is not working with me coz I'm too scared. It actually good to have a bit money when walking or running just in case there's an emergency - or perhaps suddenly remember to buy grocery, hehe Report
    I have had problems with dogs. I have been bitten once near my house and while visiting the Georgia mountain area I was chased by a pack of dogs, thank God there was a big stick nearby that I kept swinging it around the circle they made around me, I then screamed like a banshee and acted crazy which confused them and gave time for the owner of a nearby trailer to come out and call them home! I read this somewhere and it worked. It would have made a hysterical you tube film but I can tell you it took a while for my heartrate to come down at the time. So my motto is to run softly but always carry a big stick. Report
    Hi, keep in mind that a bicyclist should travel with the flow of traffic, rather than against it, as a walker should. The reason is the impact that a car can hit you with could be increased by 2/3. if you are travelling against the flow. Report
    thanks for the advice. i was just asking my bf today on our walk whether i should be walking with or against the traffic, and decided against was the way to go - your blog definitely reinforces that! Report
    I frequently walk on trails that are shared by walkers, runners and bicyclists. The usual warning for a bicyclist (or runner) coming up behind a walker, is to say "on your left", which alerts the walker to move to the right and let the faster one pass safely. Since there is no vehicular traffic to consider, it is the most natural thing to use the traffic guidelines that we are accustomed to while driving or bicycling on the road. I have had a few close calls when a bicyclist either did not give a warning or passed on the right. While not as dangerous for the walker/runner as a car, a collision with someone on foot and a bicycle could be quite painful to both parties. My personal favorite alert is a bicycle bell. It is sometimes easier to hear than a voice from behind. Report
    Thanks for the advice. I always worry about a drive-by shooting and haven't really considered that a driver could hit me because of inattentiveness. Thanks for the advice. Report
    I had the misfortune of being attacked while on a morning run in my very safe residential neighborhood at 0530. My husband had to answer the door at 0600 to a police officer standing there who didn't mention that I was fine until the almost end of the conversation.

    I was able to fight them off but I know I (and my husband) will never take running safety for granted again. Some more tips:
    1) Don't wear headphones/listen to music unless it is a very populated area. I heard my attacker coming up behind me but I wouldn't have if I had been wearing headphones.
    2) Be prepared - think about different scenarios before they happen. Yes, I have always been a worrier which means that I am always looking for the pay phone, the shoulder, the ditch I can jump into, the last safe person/house I saw, etc. You never know when you will need it. Report
    thanks nancy that's a great list!!! pretty freaky about that other girl, i will have to start doing that from now on! Report
    As someone who walks very early in the morning, all good advice. Report
    In the last 5 years, I have known 3 people who have been hit by cars walking in their neighborhoods. Only 1 is alive!

    Good advice! Report
    yeah when i walk i walk where i know its safe. i am 30 yrs old and still scared of big dogs. i was knoked over by a huge dog when i was younger and they still scare me. yeah i have had dogs chase after me but i just slowly walk away and not pay attention to them. thank god i havent been attacked Report
    I really think that this is a very important article. I started walking around 2 weeks ago (give or take) and I think that this article made me mentally really stop and think about the dangers that I could encounter at any given time....Thank you!!! Report
    I have been running since I was 12, and I have encountered plenty of dangerous situations from crazy drivers, rattlesnakes and creepy men to a pack of vicious dogs and injuring myself when I was 30 minutes out. That said I do take precautions, and probably because I have followed all of that advice and more I am still here and running today. I want to tell the dog story cuz it was scary. I was running with my dh( then boyfriend) and his friend. I couldn't keep up so I let them go ahead thinking that they would come back the same way. They decided to take a different trail, and around 25 minutes out on a trail, 5 or 6 dogs came out of the bushes running at me full speed and barking and growling. There had already been a man viciously attacked by a pack of wild domestic dogs, and I was really scared. I looked around and it was the one place on the whole trail that there were no rocks sticks, nada. So I pretended to pick up rocks and as loud and mean as I could I yelled GO AWAY! The dogs looked stunned, slowly came to a stop and turned around and went as strangely as they appeared. Crazy right!? Report
    Every morning I take my dog Oliver running with me through our local park. Not only do I have him, but I carry pepper spray with me too. There not that many people around so sometimes I feel a little awkward. It's makes me feel extra safe though and it's on my handy little keychain. I encourage everyone to do the same!! It's kind of weird, but I bought mine at and i bought 2 pink ones. I'm so happy I did. Report
    Thanks for the good safety tips. I remember being taught in grade school (by a policeman) that if you had to walk on a road, you should walk "against"traffic and if you were riding a bike, you rode "with" the traffic.

    As a side note, I took a week long bicycle trip with about 50 others when I was in college. Before the days of cell phones. We rode with traffic on several types of roads. We were told that the little white stripe on the edge of the road was our bike lane...and we all stayed safe! Report
    AMEN for ROADID.COM. You can even give someone a gift card .. they're less than $30 & that includes shipping. My brother regularly rides 40-60 miles at a time on his bicycle & that takes him far from home.

    Letting people know your route & approximate return time are also very good suggestions. Cell phones are great, as long as you have service where you are. Don't always rely on a cell phone.

    I had a bad bicycle wreck when I was a teenager & fortunately had a friend with me (buddy system!) I suffered a severe concussion even though I was wearing a helmet & wouldn't have been able to speak up for myself if we'd called 911 (not that I even thought of that then...)

    Another tip - if you look in your local yellow pages or online even- find construction and/or surveyor's equipment & supply. They have light-weight, breathable vests in a variety of designs, sizes, and colors with reflective stripes (or not), but they are generally that bright orange or yellow. This will allow you to be seen from a great distance. Or look in a bicycle shop for a flashing reflector for your bicycle. You can also attach those to backpacks - I used one when I had to walk to a shuttle bus stop before daylight & after sundown.

    MOST drivers DON'T want to have a run-in w/someone on foot/bicycle/skates. Help them to see you! Thanks - and I don't wanna see you coming into my hospital! LOL Report
    For safty's sake I got a Road ID ( I have a medical condition, so it is twice as important, but it is good for everyone to make sure you have ID. I suggest the Shoe ID b/c it is not at all in your way and you can put about 6 lines of info on it and it is reflecty! It's about $20 just once (you can get a special service if you want with a membership, but I know myself well enough to know I would not keep up with paying each month). I recommend checking out the site - even if it is not for you it may be just the think for a loved one :) Report
    I walk but stick to sidewalks etc. and never after sundown. Years ago we lived out in the Country where there weren't sidewalks so had to walk on the pavement. If we walked after dark or just before, we always carried a powerful flashlight and had it on and swung it with an arm so that anyone coming from either direction would see it well in advance. Once in a while we would have vehicles deliberatey see how close to us they could get without actually hitting us. That was in broad daylight! We alwasy walked so we gould see the vheciles coming and if ther happened to be cars from both directions at once, we stepped off to the areas beside the road and waited till they were gone.

    I don't know how many people you see walking and or running after dark. They rarely have reflective items on and they are always in dark clothing. Sometimes they even have a dark hood on.

    They just run or step right out in front of your vehicle because they aren't using their brains. They think you can see them and will stop. Well guess what? You don't see them till you are right on top of them. Then they get upset and you hear the swear words. Report
    This is another reason it's great that mobile phone usage whilst driving is illegal in the UK! Makes it just a little bit safer.
    I am either on treadmill or hiking because we don't actually have flat land. Giving me great resistance. When out I carry a purse back pack on my back for cell, I.D., Klenex, water, and etc. I to wear orange during hunting. My dog always goes with. Report
    I was always taught to walk against the traffic! Report
    For those looking to locate the can find these at the following website. I hope this helps and it is well worth the investment.

    Great entry. Thanks for the tips. Where would I find one of the id bracelets? Report
    Yes. I walk on the sidewalks when possible. I walk in the busy downtown area and I follow the lights in most cases. When there is absolutely no traffic coming I might cross against the light. My major complaint is when the light changes from red to green the cross traffic often doesn't stop but will run the light. I have been nearly hit 3 times and 2 older gentlemen were hit just that way. So I will often stand on the curb until I am sure that the crossing traffic has fully stopped. Also I watch for right turners who don't seem to see you either. I have slammed my fist into the hood of 4 cars who didn't stop but wanted to roll through the turn. If a car pulls into the intersection before stopping, I will cross behind it rather than walk in front of a car that may start up all of a sudden. You basically have to be constantly alert when you are walking. Report
    I was always taught to walk against traffic and I am 54 years old so I know it started a long time ago.
    We walk off road as much as possible just for the reasons mentioned.
    I agree the identification thing is real important too...they have a special id bracelet you can buy I highly advise one of those! Report
    I carry mace for the dogs. I run/walk around my neighborhood with my 3 year old son in a jogging stroller. We have been attacked twice in the 3 years he has been on the planet. Irresponsible dog owners are my arch enemy. For the record, I've never used the mace. Report
    I'm confused. I was always taught to walk with the flow of traffic and never against traffic. When did this change? Report
    I do walk against traffic. I also wear a reflective vest. I bought the vest in the winter and had the forsight to buy it large so that I could get it over layers of clothes. I generally walk with my dog and keep him on the left.
    I generally find myself looking at the oncoming traffic to see that they see me. I have had to step off the road when the driver is on a cell phone and is not paying attention to the road and those on the road. It is quite obvious when the driver sees me and Yukon (my black lab mix).
    I do not carry a cell phone and probably never will. My husband knows my walking circuits and know when I head out for my walks. I do sometimes find myself daydreaming through my walks which isnt necessarily a good thing!!! Report
    My husband and I walk on our busy rural road (yes, busy - it's a back route from one major town to another), which has no sidewalks. We walk against the traffic, carry a cell phone, and when we take our dog, we walk with the dog on the INSIDE (always on my left). I always carry a plastic bag with me when the dog walks, so that we can scoop her poop, too; I hate to leave "packages" on neighbors' property, even if it's nowhere near the driveway or lawn.

    I thought that "playing dead" was what would stop a bear attack. I've never heard of this for dogs, and I've grown up around dogs my whole life. I do know that you should never, ever, make eye contact with an aggressive dog; that is an invitation for them to attack you. If I run up against a barking dog (even if it is wagging its tail), I usually cross the road and leave a wide berth around the dog's territory. I slow down, but I don't look at the dog. I have never been attacked by a dog, but I think when you show fear, the dog can sense that and keeps barking and advancing. When I am nervous about a dog, I am not adverse to shouting at the dog's house for the owner to "come get your dog!" or "call off your dog!" I have also been known to tell the dog "Go home!" which is probably more to make ME feel better; it's not likely that the dog understands what I'm saying!

    If I am walking my dog, and we are approached by a barking dog, I NEVER get between my dog and the approaching dog. My dog, though small, will try to protect me, and I don't want to be in the middle of two dogs fighting! I usually stop my dog and let the other dog approach. It has always turned into a "smell-fest," where they circle and sniff each other. After a minute or so, I will tug my dog's leash to indicate that we're leaving, and we continue our walk. Loose dogs (no owner in sight) are easier to deal with, I think. Whenever I've encountered a dog with an owner, I ALWAYS ask, "Is your dog friendly?" before approaching. If the answer is No, then I cross the street with my dog and give them a wide berth, never getting between my dog and the other dog. If the answer is Yes, then I ask if we can approach, and then let the "smell-fest" begin. I think dogs will naturally try to protect their owners, so I try to be cautious about any strange dogs, even if the owner believes that their dog is friendly.

    My husband and I don't walk at dusk or after dark, because the road is too dangerous. We do own reflective vests, though, and if we ever felt the need to do so, we'd wear those. If I walk alone, I always tell my husband which route I'm taking. And I don't take the same route or go at the same time every day; it varies.

    This was a great article! Very thought-provoking. Report
    In La Crosse WI the law says we are to ride bikes on the street only, going with the flow of traffic. Despite a young MD getting hit and killed going with the flow of traffic several years ago, the law hasn't changed. We frequently break the law so we are safe after repeatedly having near misses with drivers. We either ride the sidewalks when they are empty or ride on the street against the flow of traffic. Report
    I live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks. I was once run off the road (while pushing a double stroller) by a lady who was busy fixing her hair in the rearview mirror! Thank goodness I knew to walk against traffic so I saw she wasn't moving over. We have so many people who don't know to walk against traffic or who walk in the dark/dusk with no reflective clothing or lights. Thank you for writing this article! Report
    I'm not a runner, but I am a hiker. I know the golden rule is to never hike alone but we live out in the middle of nowhere and I have no one else to hike with. I always tell my husband what trail I will be hiking and about how long it should take me. Also, I always take my cell phone. So far this has worked out well. I broke my leg on the Appalacian trail 3 yrs ago and was really glad I had my cell phone with me. The rescue squad got to me in about an hour. Without the phone - well I don't even want to think about how long I would have been lying on the ground in pain. Report
    I also always walk against the flow! I never thought about mapping my route or carrying my id though. I will start that tomorrow morning! Report
    When I was working, I used to walk at lunchtime. I walked on a sidewalk with the flow of traffic (only one side of the street had a sidewalk, so this was the best option). Twice, though, I was nearly hit by a car coming up behind me and turning into a hotel driveway directly in front of me. One driver was talking on his phone, but neither driver saw me! One car missed by about 6 inches; the other came so close I had to jump back out of the way. Report
    I often think of some of these tips when I am out jogging. The problem is that I do not know what to carry my cell pone and ID in. Report
    We are fortunate in MN (twin cities area) to have lots of trails. I try to run only on the trails and I always carry my cell phone in case of any trouble. Report
    I have been fortunate and not had any close calls. However I do know many people that have been seriously injured due to careless drivers. Report
    I've been fortunate enough to not have been hurt yet, but I was nearly hit by a car one afternoon by a car pulling out in front of me. Many drivers just don't pay attention. My husband was hit by a car walking back from the gym! Fortunately he wasn't hurt at all, but now we're both extra careful. Report