Pounding the pavement and road is a great way to improve fitness and lose weight, but it comes with hazards – traffic. With most households owning more than one vehicle, busy schedules, increased volume of traffic often for even short journeys that previously were carried out by walking or using public transport means runners are potentially at more risk of accidents and collisions with vehicles than ever before.
Some statistics show that more than 125,000 runners and walkers are hit by cars each year. Not all of them are seriously injured, of course, but that is still a huge number.
Combine that with the fact that there is less sunlight in the winter, assuming you live in a Northern hemisphere, and you are more likely to be running in the dark than you would be in summer. In many parts of the couple, a typical December day is only really light from about 8am to maybe 4:30pm.
How do runners reduce risks of being hit by vehicles as they exercise? First, consider whether or not wearing headphones while running is such a good idea. These do have a purpose in reducing monotony and maintaining a steady rhythm and stride, but does the volume need to be set so high that other noises are completely removed? Technological advances in headphone designs is such that some models are even capable of blocking out external noise, which can be hazardous when running alongside busy streets. So the first piece of advice we can give is be alert while running, be aware of the sounds and sights around you. If you run on streets, ditch the headphones. If you run on trails, maybe they are OK.
If you have to run on the street, runners are advised to run towards traffic rather than in the same direction as traffic if running on or close to the road. This is so that runners are aware of what the traffic is doing and can respond. Remember, a runner is moving a lot slower than vehicles, so it is better to be in a position to move out of the way quickly if needed.
The next thing to consider is running in reflective gear. When you are running, how far you and what clothing you plan to wear will determine what reflective gear is most appropriate for your needs.
It is disappointing that most well-known high street sports brands do not include significant reflective materials on their sportswear. Some do have small amounts of reflective material, and others are cheeky enough to only have their logos in reflective material in order to stand out, but such features are usually inadequate when it comes to provide safety for runners who run at night or on less well lit routes. We are seeing a few of the better bike shorts out there come with more reflective striping or accents, but it is still not at the level we would prefer.
A good place to start a search for adequate reflective running gear is to look at the safety gear made for motorcyclist and bicyclists. However, make sure that you select outer clothing that also has good coverage. There are vests sold on the internet that can only be described as belts or straps that include reflective material. These really are inadequate, because these so called vests do not provide much coverage of the torso. Ideally a reflective vest covers the torso well and features a solid block of reflective material on the base of the vest, approximately 2 inches high or more and on both the back and front. Good vests will also have reflective material on the shoulders as well.
A good reflective vest will also be made of a mesh to reduce sweating. Let your usual running gear do that. The last thing you want is to increase sweating while running in cold weather, as this will lead to reduced body temperature, reduce you running performance and level of comfort.
There are lots of such products on internet selling platforms such as Amazon and eBay. Read the descriptions carefully and do not be too tempted to buy the cheapest available. You should not cut costs when it comes to personal safety.
Some smaller adults might be able to fit into school safety vests. While these generally are for children up to the age of 14 years, most are generously designed, offering a decent amount of reflective material.
Freemove Running Vests
The best reflective running vests are made by Freemove, which can be found easily on an internet search. Their vests come with excellent reflective material that can be seen from up to 750 feet and the material reacts well to lights from vehicles by glowing and increase visibility of the runner. Freemove vests also come with 2 free reflective bands that can be placed around the arms or legs for added visibility. This vest also come with a storage bag. It is hard to recommend other brands, and there are plenty with similar names, but few measure up to the same standard of quality and effectiveness that you will find with a Freemove vest.
You can also purchase reflective bands that can be cut to size and made into arm bands, ankle bands and stuck onto clothing. This is not ideal because these do not necessarily provide comfortable wearing, especially during intense runs.
There are a number of wristbands with lights that can be worn too. These work well when not wearing long sleeved clothing, and can also be worn on ankles.
I recently saw a cyclist with a vest that actually had flashing lights on it. I asked him where he purchased it and he told me that the lights were battery operated fairy lights that he stitched himself into his high visibility vest.
Reflective Ankle Bands
Finally, we like the idea of a reflective ankle or wrist band, one that can be attached via velcro to nearly any limb and in most any condition. One of the things that we like about an ankle band is that the repetitive motion of a runner placing one foot in front of the other is sure to catch a driver’s attention, especially when their headlight beam bounces off of a reflective surface. It tends to be a bit more eye-catching than just a static piece of reflective materials on someone’s back or head.
Perhaps the product we are most excited about at the moment actually has nothing to do with reflection. We love the ankle bands that light up with a LED light. There is something about the motion of feet moving, and light moving with it, that really catches your eye as a driver. The LED ankle bands from Anytinus come in several different colors, and use the same small batteries that watches or car keys do. We really think they up your visibility game as an evening running, cyclist, or walker.
Don’t Forget Other Safety Rules
Wearing the right clothing is just a start.
Remember, if you don’t have a trail or sidewalk to run on, be sure you are running against the traffic. Studies have shown that running on the shoulder or side of the road where you can see the cars coming at you it dramatically safer than running with the traffic, where you cannot see cars approaching.
Also, don’t skimp on your footing when it comes to winter running. Be sure you are dressed for the weather, and get the right shoes if the footing is slick or icy. The last thing you want to do is slip and fall at a crossing or near traffic, causing confusion or worse.