Safety office to runners: be visible, alert

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Few bases offer the combination of scenery and challenging terrain that the Air Force Academy provides for runners. However, those who decide to run on base have to be aware of their surroundings and highly visible to motorists, especially during the early morning or early evening hours.

Runners who are running with the direction of vehicle traffic or run with headphones in one or both ears risk injury through lack of situational awareness, said Maj. Jennifer Stokes, the Academy's director of safety.

The safety office has recently received numerous reports of runners running on the wrong side of the road, wearing headphones and not wearing appropriate reflective gear during twilight hours, Major Stokes said.

"Many people find it extremely boring to run without music, but when you're jamming to your tunes, you tune out the danger around you," she said. "So ditch the music and soak in the sounds of the Academy environment: birds singing, cadets flying airplanes overhead and -- most importantly -- vehicles approaching you."

If you absolutely, positively have to have music on your run, then you should look into a running track, an offroad trail or an indoor facility, Major Stokes said.

Running on the left side of the road also allows runners to be more aware of their surroundings, the major said.

"The reason you run ... facing oncoming traffic is so that you can see the vehicles coming towards you," she explained. "This applies if you are running on the road, in the bike lane, on the shoulder or even on the other side of the curb. That way you can yield or jump out of the way if a vehicle gets too close."

The Academy also requires runners to wear reflective material if they're on the road anytime from one hour before sunset to one hour after sunrise, Major Stokes said. Reflective material on shoes doesn't count, and neither does brightly colored clothing unless it's also reflective. The Air Force physical training uniform is reflective enough to make runners visible, but cadet physical training uniforms are not reflective enough unless the jacket and pants are worn. Runners might also want to consider wearing the one clothing item everyone loves to hate: a reflective belt.

"When it comes to being a pedestrian, stealthy isn't healthy," Major Stokes said. "So see and be seen!"

A few more do's and don'ts for runners and pedestrians include:

- Don't: Jog or walk on roadway pavement except to cross intersections or on designated bicycle lanes when no other options exist
- Don't: Use portable headphones, earphones or other listening or talking devices, including cell phones, while jogging or walking on or adjacent to roadways
- Don't: Jog or walk on roadways during snow-removal operations
- Don't: Jog or walk on roadways with high traffic density during peak traffic periods, e.g., Stadium Boulevard.
- Do: Travel single file facing oncoming traffic and obey off-limits areas
- Do: Practice risk management when you decide where to run, as not every road or pathway is suitable for running