Sorry Runners–Vehicles Win

P8010008This post probably isn’t going to win me any friends in the running community, but it might save someone from some pain and suffering.

Over the time that I have been back to running, I have been hearing all the complaints about how many bad drivers there are in cars, from other runners online.

I have to admit I have had a few incidents myself. Were I have felt the need to salute certain drivers in what I thought was an appropriate response to their actions, stupidity or carelessness.

However, for the most part – I would say that 98% of the drivers on the road are pretty decent about sharing the road with runners. Where I live and run in Maine, there are not a lot of tarred shoulders or sidewalks and if you get off the road, you are either in a ditch, dirt or high grass. Most drivers I have found will try to move over and let you stay on the road – when they can.

That is the big point – when they can.

  • If another vehicle is coming, they have to stay in their lane and it always seems that the two vehicles meet when right beside a runner. Murphy’s Law of Running in Traffic.
  • If a vehicle is going up a hill, they have to stay in their lane.
  • If a vehicle is coming to a corner, they have to stay in their lane
  • If a vehicle is in a blind turn and suddenly come up on you, it sucks to be the runner.

At those points the runner needs to be aware of where they are and regardless of how much it destroys their rhythm or pace, get off the damn road and let the vehicle go by – for everyone’s safety, especially their own.

However, many times this past summer, when I have been driving by runners in those situations, they don’t yield and have caused unsafe conditions for me as a driver, other vehicles and them as runners. Then they give me that wonderful one-finger salute, because I couldn’t move over the center line at that point and time due to safety reasons, not because I was being an asshat.

As a courtesy when I see fellow runners on the road I tend to slow down, especially when I see more than one, however, when one of the conditions I listed above are happening and the runner does not yield and get off the tarred road, it becomes a dicey or dangerous situation. Yes I know that sometimes getting off the road isn’t fun and it is easy to twist an ankle or knee, but it is a lot better than getting hit by a vehicle.

So runners while there are crazy/stupid drivers out there, from what I have seen there are also a few crazy/stupid runners, who create unsafe conditions on the road as well. I believe that most of us have experienced both.

My tips for running safely in areas where there is traffic and only dirt, grass or ditches on the shoulder are:

  • Run facing traffic. You want to be able to see what might be coming at you.
  • Don’t be arrogant and think you own the road. Just because YOU happen to be running don’t believe that you have the right of way in all situations – YOU don’t.
  • Be aware of traffic – you can hear them or see their lights on the telephone wires a long time before you see a vehicle.
  • Visibility can the driver see you? Are you wearing bright colors that contrast with the surrounding area, is it dawn, dusk or night time while you are running? Are you carrying a light of some kind?
  • Be aware of the traffic coming up on you from behind (especially in a passing zone), a car might be passing another and take the piece of road you are running on. Remember to listen for traffic behind you as well as in front of you.
  • Know where you are and areas that could be dangerous for drivers (i.e. hills, corners, driveways, etc.). Be proactive in these areas for your own safety and don’t endanger others.
  • Road conditions and weather can make a difference in how drivers and you react while on the road.
  • If running with a group on a busy road go single file in areas with a lot of traffic or areas where sudden vehicle confrontations might happen without warning – danger zones
  • If you are running with headphones on have the volume turned way down. A better idea when running in these areas is not to wear your headphones or music.

It also doesn’t hurt to wave a quick thank you to the vehicles that do go out around you – as a simple courtesy. Who knows they might be more willing to give up some of the road to you or some other runner again next time, if they see us as being courteous to them?

Be proactive about your possible encounters with vehicles – if you notice a vehicle, tractor trailer or dump truck coming towards you and it isn’t moving over, don’t force the issue. Get off the damn road for your own safety. There maybe a vehicle that you can’t hear coming from the other direction.

The reality is that

Runners really need to think about where and what they are doing while running, especially where road shoulders or sidewalks are non-existent.

I don’t mean to sound like I am bashing runners, because I definitely am one and run on the roads a lot. At the same time runners need to be aware of situations that they sometimes put themselves into when running in traffic.

If we all think back, it isn’t always the vehicle’s fault for the confrontation we have had. What could you have have done differently, before the situation occurred. Would it have been easier to have stepped 3 feet into the dirt shoulder or ditch and then resumed your run, rather than forcing an unsafe condition to happen and reacting with the middle finger wave if you survived it? I think many times this could be the case.

I know I hate reading about runners being hit by cars and don’t want any of my fellow runners to become just another statistic.

The bottom-line is that in a car/runner everyone looses, but the runner is the one that will most likely end up in the hospital or morgue, if they are hit by a vehicle.

Keep running, but run safely and be aware of where you are.

  • What do you think, have you encountered runners being inconsiderate when you are driving?

I know that most of us all have had bad encounters with vehicles, but looking with 20/20 hindsight have you ever contributed or created a dangerous situation while running? I have.






13 responses to “Sorry Runners–Vehicles Win”

  1. misszippy1 Avatar

    I’m in total agreement with you here, both with running and cycling–the cars are ALWAYS going to win.


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Yes and unfortunately, too many of both seem to forget that. Personally, I won’t argue over the right of way too much and just give it up to a vehicle even if they are wrong, I enjoy running and being healthy too much to be in the Emergency Room or morgue.


  2. Krysten Siba Bishop (@darwinianfail) Avatar

    GREAT POST! Such an important reminder!


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Thanks Krysten 🙂


  3. Christina Avatar

    I’ve recently had several bad car experiences where I felt the driver wasn’t giving me courtesy (as a runner or had I been a pedestrian). Ie, they had a stop sign, it was my turn, just because I’m not in a car … grrrr! However, I will say, the majority of car drivers here where I live have always been gracious and have allowed me to get my run on. I tend to stick to paths as much as possible and am mostly off the roads, so my moments with cars are usually only in situations of cross walks and stop signs. I am learning better, however, to just stop at a crossing. After all, they are training runs, not races 🙂


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Christina – Unfortunately, there a lot more vehicles than runners and there is always the 1-2% that are to be blunt jerks, yet at the same time runners have displayed the same attitude and it is about the same percentage. Like you that is why I prefer to run on trails, roads with a tarred shoulder, it is just safer that way 🙂


  4. Lisa (Mom to Marathon) Avatar

    I enjoyed this post! I was thinking the same thing just yesterday when I saw a woman running on a narrow bridge, going my direction (so she didn’t see me), wearing headphones that completely covered her ears. As a runner, I have had cars be inconsiderate, but as a driver, I have seen crazy things from runners. Let’s all share the road!


  5. marylouharris Avatar

    Excellent points, especially making yourself visible as a runner. An additional caution I’ve become aware through close calls (my own and some cycling friends) is to gauge the size of the side mirrors on vehicles, especially pickups and larger SUVs which can be deceptive in judging the amount of space between you and the vehicle.


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      Thank you for the advice on the mirrors, they can be very dangerous, especially those that are towing campers and they are add-ons to the vehicle.


  6. paigesato Avatar

    I grew up in Maine (but didn’t run there), but this summer, running with my Portland-based sister-in-law, I realized how lucky I was in suburban NJ to actually have running/biking lanes (or at least wide, tarred breakdown lanes) on many roads. Although, i have to say, I prefer the ambience of Maine. Because NJ drivers use their one fingered salute much more frequently than called-for.


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      I was stationed in NJ (Sandy Hook) for a few years and ran down there, so I know what you mean I prefer Maine to other places even if there are no breakdown lanes on the roads. Actually best place I have run is in Minnesota, most of the roads seem to have breakdown/bike lanes, but too much traffic out where I was running for me.


  7. BackatSquare0 (@BackAtSquare0) Avatar

    I agree with you. I always try to be super aware when running and make it as easy as possible for cars to see me.
    I do hate jerks who refuse to move over, but I am not one for taking on a car so instead of trying to act all macho I will happily move out of the way.


    1. Harold L. Shaw Avatar

      I have given a salutes to jerks, but for the most part drivers do share the road up here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: