We have all experienced dealing with terrible drivers during the day, people who are distracted by gadgets, perhaps inexperienced, and often simply ignorant of the rules of the road. But what could be more terrifying than trying to exercise at night or early in the morning around these same drivers? This has been a major fear of mine—I’ve always had a phobia about getting run over by a driver while I’m out running in a dark neighborhood. With accidental pedestrian and cyclist deaths on the rise all over the U.S., taking a few additional safety measures can have a significant payoff. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to protect yourself—increased visibility. In regular street clothes, a runner’s visibility is limited to around 200 feet in the dark; add a simple strobe light or flashing LED to your workout gear, and you’ve enhanced that visibility to over 1,000 feet.
After the time change on November 3, we will have lost an hour of daylight at the close of the day. Austinites are always looking for an excuse to get outside, and weather in the fall evenings is just about perfect for a walk or jog. Unfortunately, shorter days and active lifestyles mean that there are more opportunities for motorists to interact with pedestrian and cycling traffic in less than optimal circumstances. Be proactive about your safety; don’t wait for an accident to occur. So instead of going out unprotected, take a look at some reflective and light-producing gear that could save your life.
There are many lighting accessories to increase visibility. Armbands are available for purchase in neon, reflective, and light-up options. Athletic stores also offer different types of headlamps or clip-on lights that can help you not only see but be seen. In addition, many sporting good stores sell simple clip-on LED devices that show your presence. Note: If you are running facing traffic (as is recommended), you can wear a headlamp and clip one of these to the back of your shirt or waistband so that you are visible coming and going.
Most fitness companies are creating athletic clothing (shirts, shorts, and running shoes) with built-in reflective protection. To easily distinguish whether or not your clothing has reflective features, check for gray or shiny stripes and patches. Reflective vests are another safe clothing choice. They are very lightweight and will allow traffic to see you from any angle for increased safety. In addition, they can be worn over shirts and jackets. Illuminite has produced an entire line of clothing and accessories that feature a reflective material to help motorists see runners and cyclists in low light. They have created a retro-reflective technology that embeds millions of microscopic beads into the weave of the fabric that act like mirrors to reflect the original light source.
Here are some additional safety tips for working out in the dark:
• Wear brighter colors. Leave your all-black workout wear at home and opt for whites and lighter colors. Unleash your neon!
• Pick a route that is well lit. Even if it’s not your favorite, a better-lit route is safer (you can always revisit that favorite route in the day time).
• Always run facing traffic. This allows you to see traffic as well as cars to see any light you are carrying. By seeing what is coming at you, you are better able to react appropriately. Running with your back to traffic is one of the most frequent mistakes made by runners.
• Cyclists, make sure to have appropriate bike lights, both on the front and back of the bicycle. You can actually be ticketed for riding at night with improper bike lights. Always follow the rules of the road and ride on the right side, just as you would if you were driving a car.
• Run and cycle defensively. Assume that the driver does not see you.
• Instead of hitting the road after work, try switching to an early morning workout to capture increasing light.
• Running on trails in the dark? Consider different colored lights. Reds and greens help with shadows and depth perception. Keep in mind that animals are more active in the early morning and dark, so consider carrying pepper spray for any unwanted encounters (human or animal).
• Purchase reflective tape and decorate your favorite bottle, cycling helmet, and jacket for those cold days.