I can't blame this one on the heat. Definitely not the heat.
About thirty minutes into one of our easy, breezy Sunday morning long jaunts I was starting to feel...rather normal. I already told Charley and George, my two run companions for the morning, that I would engage in a brief walk period a half-hour in. They were still close, between fifty and one-hundred yards immediately behind me, traveling up a two-lane, tree-lined road on the back side of our "international" airport. I had just been passed by a pick-up truck going the opposite direction; not a new occurrence, as several entry-level aviators and their instructors often come up that way early on Sunday.
About five seconds later I hear curses, oaths, vulgarities, epithets and the like being exchanged back and forth. Charley and the motor vehicle operator are jawing at each other. I turned back to watch and heard the word 'gun' bandied about. This cannot bode well. The two continued to exchange "pleasantries" for another minute or so.
The operator, convinced in his own mind of the correctness of his driving -- and probably late to his job, decided to move on.
At that particular point I was more concerned for the safety of my loving bride, who was no more than five minutes back. Was the guy going to take his frustration out on her? Those stress hormones aren't all that helpful when it comes to rational thought and judgement. Next thing you know I'll find the missus as an unintentional hood ornament. Bad day.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrians were one of the few groups of road users to experience an increase in fatalities in the United States in 2012, totaling 4,432 deaths. NHTSA also estimates that sixteen times that number (76,000) were injured while walking, jogging, running or hiking during the same year. If you're male, older than 45, running between 8 and 11 pm, in an urban area, during clear/normal weather conditions the chances of being injured or killed in a collision with a motor vehicle operator are higher than the average bear.
So, does drunken driving play a role in who gets hit, hurt or permanently harmed? Not as much as we would guess. Drivers involved in a pedestrian accident were found to have blood-alcohol concentrations above the legal limit in only 14 percent of the cases, whereas the pedestrian was twice as likely to have had more than one drink in their system when they were struck by a car.
An April 2014 NHTSA document on Pedestrian Traffic Safety provides the usual common-sense important safety reminders:
"Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever one is available. If no sidewalk or path is available, walk facing traffic (on the left side of the
road) on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible." In our case, we were on a shoulder-less stretch of road.
"Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including radios, smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment." Perfect sense to me. How many times have I harped on runners with headphones? Don't ask, says my wife.
"Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you). Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen." Yeah...I usually wave in their direction when I can clearly see their face.
"Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night." Great idea! I wish more persons who walked or ran would consider this, especially the ones who get their miles in during the early hours of the morning.
"Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair your abilities and judgment too." Very well; I'll save the beer drinking for when I hash.
In spite of the commonly-quoted dictum: "when a pedestrian goes up against a motor vehicle, the motor vehicle always wins," I hope my motoring friends remember that in this age of cell phones and (increasing) surveillance cameras, the motor vehicle might win but karma can also come back to take a pound of flesh (with added percentage points) from the motorist.
It's not the heat (of the moment), but (occasionally) the stupidity.
More pedestrian traffic statistics and information can be found at the NHTSA site, http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811888.pdf.