Jogging on Maryland Roads

Our office is in a community with fairly narrow streets. And it is not uncommon to see local joggers running out in the street rather than on the adjacent sidewalk. This use of the streets by motorists and vehicles has led to some near misses and hits and pedestrian accidents. Since Sussman & Simcox is all about safety, the question arises - “Why do joggers prefer to run on the road when they would be safer on the sidewalk where there are no cars?” pedestrian safety

To answer this question, we spoke with long-time (40+ years) Maryland running enthusiast Marty Horan of Bethesda. Marty has competed in 25 marathons and hundreds of half-marathons was the Race Director for the annual Kentlands/Lakelands 5k Road Race in Gaithersburg and continues to run daily for fun and health.  

Marty advises, “To avoid ankle injuries and falls, runners usually prefer running in the street, which has the smoothest, most predictable running surface. Sidewalks have changes in elevation at each driveway and corner and can pose trip hazards when old trees buckle the sidewalk plates.”  

Contributory Negligence in Maryland

Maryland law allows pedestrians, including runners, to use the edge of the pavement along a roadway “where a sidewalk is not provided.” However, where a sidewalk is provided, “a pedestrian may not walk along and on an adjacent roadway.” While a runner who ignores an available sidewalk is not likely to get a traffic ticket, given Maryland’s archaic “contributory negligence” rules, a runner who is hit and injured while running along the road may face a legal hurdle with their injury claim if there was an available sidewalk for their use.  

Six Ways a Runner Can Increase Their Safety

  1. If using the roadway, pedestrians can increase their safety by jogging along the edge, facing oncoming traffic. This is required under Maryland law, and it allows a runner time to react to an approaching truck, or a vehicle that may be driving too fast or drifting toward them.  
  2. Take steps to increase visibility. This means wearing colorful clothing, a high visibility/reflective vest even during daytime, and a flashing strobe. Jogging after sunset puts runners at increased risk.
  3. Marty Horan also recommends running in pairs or groups, which not only increases visibility to approaching motorists, but provides an instant companion if someone experiences a health issue or injury while jogging. 
  4. Marty also recommends ditching earphones while running in public. Earphones/music mask the sound of approaching vehicles, horns or other warnings and can decrease a runner’s awareness of potential dangers. 
  5. Runners should always assume that approaching motorists do not see them and should maintain a precautionary distance from an oncoming vehicle. 
  6. Consider using dedicated jogging trails and paved paths, which provide good separation from vehicular traffic and a fairly smooth running surface.  

How Can Motorists Avoid Impact With Runners?

  1. Always anticipate the presence of a jogger around the next bend, especially during nice weather. 
  2. Motorists do not have exclusive use of the roadway. If you embrace your obligation under Maryland law to SHARE the road with pedestrians/joggers, you will be a safer motorist. 
  3. If you see a jogger at the edge of your lane ahead, watch your speed and give them the widest clearance you can safely provide. 
  4. High beams may help illuminate a jogger at a greater distance when driving in fading light and leave more reaction time. 

Hopefully, the above is a useful refresher on pedestrian and motorist rights and obligations. Be healthy and safe, and if you have any legal questions, contact us today.

Howard Simcox
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Gaithersburg Personal Injury Attorney
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