Running near mountainIf you’re a die-hard outdoor walker or runner, the approach of cold temperatures and fewer daylight hours in fall and winter isn’t a problem. Whether this means exercising in the dark or throwing on a few more layers, you’ll be out there, regardless of the conditions. Commitment to a routine exercise habit is admirable, but should also be approached with an awareness of the dangers, especially when hitting the streets in the wee morning or late night hours.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 70% of pedestrian deaths happen after dark. That statistic shouldn’t hinder you from exercising, but shouldn’t be ignored, either. With the proper clothing, equipment, and precautions, you’ll be able to stay safe while enjoying the activities you love.

Be Seen with Light, Reflective Clothing

Your black, dark grey, navy, or even red exercise clothing might look cool at the gym, but can risk your safety when you’re walking or running outside in the dark. If you’re not wearing light colors, a vehicle going as slow as 20 mph will not be able to see you in time to stop. Increase your likelihood of being seen by wearing, at the very least, light and bright colors when you’re exercising in the dark. If you don’t currently own any light or iridescent tech gear, throw a white t-shirt over dark workout clothes.

Light-colored clothing increases your visibility to vehicles going up to 40 mph, but wearing reflective clothing ensures that even cars going 60 mph will be able to see you. The ideal safety guideline is for your entire outline to be reflective so motorists can tell you’re a moving person. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is with a reflective jacket and track pants, or a safety vest.

If a safety vest isn’t your style or impedes movement, you can purchase custom reflective active wear (for instance, the IllumiNITE brand of apparel). There are also a host of other ways to get reflective, most of which you can find for under $30, including:

  • Reflective belts
  • Arm/leg bands or shoe cuffs
  • Clip-on LED flashers
  • Iron-on transfers or Velcro-strap reflectors (ideal for adding visibility to winter-wear)
  • Reflective gloves, scarves, or hats

It’s not enough to simply throw on one reflector and expect yourself to be visible. When it comes to exercising in the dark, safety is more important than fashion, so make sure what you’re wearing helps you be seen.

Seeing for Safety

Not only it is important to be seen by others – you need to be able to see objects, curbs, and other potentially hazardous obstacles in the dark to avoid injury. Sadly, the CDC reports that 92% of older pedestrian fatalities involve trips and falls that place them in the path of vehicles. Besides keeping to well-lit streets where you know the sidewalks are even and obstacle-free, you should always use a flashlight or headlamp when it’s dark out. If you prefer to keep your hands free, wear a hat with LEDs built in or clipped/strapped on. This performs the double duty of helping you see while increasing your visibility to vehicles.