If you are running in the dark or at dusk, assume cars cannot see you even if you are wearing bright, reflective gear. While most technical running apparel has small bits of reflective material as part of the design, you can't beat some of the newer reflective vests or even vests which light up. These are much more visible to drivers.
Gone are the days of the bulky, blocky gear you might see on your local road crew; current reflective vests for runners (or cyclists) are lightweight, fully adjustable and form fitting. You won't even know you have it on! But drivers will.
Another tactic to be more visible is to wear a small, blinking LED light which clips onto your clothing. These are typically red, not too bright and should be worn on your back. Blinking red lights in particular should not be worn on your front, as drivers, cyclists and other runners or pedestrians assume blinking red marks the back of a moving object. Wear white lights on the front, blinking red on back to avoid confusion.
Light it up!
A good flashlight or headlamp is a necessity as well. Ambient street light may be enough for walking, but when running and moving faster, you'll need more light to see those tripping hazards which abound on our Seattle sidewalks. Which type of light you choose to use depends on what works best for you.
Small flashlights are easily portable and replaceable. If you add a loop to carry it around your wrist, there is no danger of dropping and losing it. A flashlight can be aimed at the ground ahead of you but also can be used to flash in drivers' windows to get their attention as you come to intersections or driveways.
Do you hate carrying things in your hands? A headlamp or a small light which attaches to your waist or chest might work better than a flashlight. We have started to notice many more options than just headlamps and even spotted someone running with lights on their shoes which obviously were meant to light their way. If you have a preferred light or have tried some of the newer options, let us know what it was and why you liked it!
Many think that having the brightest light you can get is best for running, but that's not necessarily true. As you are out in the dark with just street and ambient light, your eyes adjust to the dark. If you have an extremely bright light or a light which has a very strong beam instead of a diffuse or wider spread of light, you may be inadvertently hampering your vision by keeping your eyes from adjusting to the dark.
And we hate to mention it, but if you stop to check your phone, that glare from your phone will also slow your eyes' adaptation to the the dark. Once your eyes are adapted to the dark, avoid looking at phone screens or headlights to protect that night vision.
There is an age-related consideration as well. As you age, your ability to adjust to darkness may change. Not only may you need more light than a younger counterpart, but your ability to adjust to darkness might take longer. After being blinded by bright headlights, be safe and give your eyes time to readjust.
Just as you dim your brights for oncoming cars when driving, be a considerate runner with your lights. Have you ever been blinded by another runner coming at you? Headlamps that shine straight out while lighting your way may blind another runner, a cyclist, or even a driver, and create an unsafe situation for everyone. Flashlights or knuckle lights are good options for keeping the light at a lower level and out of others' eyes. Whatever light you choose, be aware of where you're aiming!
You may see some bicyclists with super-bright, strobe-type lights. They can be painful to look at and are illegal here in Seattle. That flashing bright light can be confusing or distracting and for some can even cause seizures.
Not just runners
Runners and cyclists benefit greatly by increasing their visibility and utilizing whatever light solutions work for them. But it's not just runners and cyclists who benefit. These same tips can keep you safe as a pedestrian, and of course, your canine running or walking buddy should be lit up and visible to traffic as well.
And of course, as a driver, be aware of fellow runners, walkers and cyclists out there. They may just be a run buddy!