If the driver coming toward you is distracted, you shouldn’t be

Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, every time you run along the shoulder of an American road, it’s an adventure.

The term “adventure’’ in this case should be used more figuratively than literally, like: “I bet it would be a cool ‘adventure’ to try swimming across the Delaware this weekend.’’

Because running along busy streets and byways just keeps getting tougher every day as the frequency of distracted drivers continues to grow.

Runners are at particular risk because many of them grew up believing that wearing bright clothing, carrying a light at night, running against the traffic and paying attention to every passing car would be enough to ensure a modicum of safety.

Not anymore.

Too many people are texting, calling, writing emails and the like on their cellphones.

Every car is a potential threat, not to mention big trucks, buses and the like.

The problem is a little bit more severe in Bucks County, where numerous roads were designed decades ago, some before cars existed. They were simply dirt-based farm roads paved over.

It should be noted that traffic laws involving pedestrians (or runners) can vary from state to state.

In Pennsylvania, the “share the road’’ campaign has a law on the books that makes it mandatory for vehicular traffic to steer at least four feet clear of cyclists.

The same logic should apply to runners, too, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

For instance, in many states, runners can use both the roads or the sidewalks. But in New York State, it’s generally unlawful to run on the roads when sidewalks are provided and are accessible.

Besides, even if runners were given a clearly defined right of way on our local roads, distracted drivers still wouldn’t realize they had broken a law until they broke it and were made to pay a penalty.

Officials and lawyers admit that runners shouldn’t expect new regulations—or runner-friendly motorists—to be their impetus to safer training. Instead, runners need to protect themselves.

If you’re running along a road in sporadic traffic, check the four or five feet to your left to make sure there is someplace to land if you jump at the last second to avoid getting hit.

Recent polls suggest that despite laws prohibiting the use of cell phones (and texting), more than 70 percent of Americans continue to use their phone while driving, many at high speeds.

Here’s an old, but eye-opening stat: In 2008 (10 years ago, mind you), some 6,000 people were killed by distracted driver-related accidents (including the drivers themselves).

Another survey conducted by Runner’s World found that only about 12 percent of runners were “extremely concerned’’ about the possibility of getting injured in a car-runner accident, even though nearly 50 percent believe roads have become more dangerous in recent years.

But it does happen.

One of the most talented runners to come out of Bucks County, Phil Wood of Yardley, was killed by a hit-and-run driver down in Texas a few years ago.

The driver was later found and charged but his punishment was minimal.

It goes to show that roads continue to “be owned’’ by cars.

Over the past 40 years, I don’t know how times I’ve heard some driver open his car window and yell at me to get off the road, as if he owned it.

Then he goes back to his cellphone call.

And how many times have you been out running and had a car swerve in your direction at the last second? Then you watch the car go by and the driver, with cellphone in hand, is staring off into space.

All of which goes to point out that if you must run on a road, particularly a high-traffic one, stay on your toes.

That guy in the big SUV coming your way might not have his mind completely on what he’s doing.

 

Race calendar

 

Sunday

Bookin’ for Lookin’ 8-Miler/5K, 8:30 a.m., Council Rock North H.S. Contact www.runsignup.com

Sunday, May 20

20th annual Kiwanis-Sesame Place Classic 5K, one-mile run, kids’ sprint, 7 a.m., Sesame Place, Langhorne. Contact www.sesameplaceclassic5k.com

Wayne Fish
About Wayne Fish 327 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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