I just read an interesting book about traffic, which made me think more seriously about the risks that many of us encounter when out running on the roads.
The most recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that 69,000 pedestrians were injured by automobiles in 2008, with 4,699 pedestrian fatalities. While the statistics give no indication how many of those pedestrians were runners, the message is clear: being safe when running on the roads is much more than just running in the direction against traffic, as we were always taught.
Here are some more sobering findings from the book called Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), by Tom Vanderbilt:
• Pedestrians think drivers can see them up to twice as far away as drivers actually do.
• Drivers often have no clue about how fast they are driving. In a study measuring the speed of drivers as they passed children waiting to cross a street, drivers thought they were going at least 12 mph slower than they actually were (i.e., they thought they were going 18-25 mph when they were actually doing 30-37 mph).
• During night driving, according to one expert, a driver would have to be going no more than 20 mph to ensure seeing every potential hazard in time to stop, including, say, a runner in reflective clothing.
• Above 20 mph, drivers begin to lose eye contact with pedestrians, and the chances of a pedestrian dying if hit by a car increase dramatically.