Lights for Night Walking Safety and Visibility

Walking at night requires you to think about how you'll light your path, especially in areas without streetlights. You also should use lights, in addition to wearing reflective gear, simply to be more visible to cars and other people. Vehicles approaching you from side streets or different angles may not illuminate your reflective gear with their headlights so wearing lights or strobes can improve safety. The following are some options for night walking safety gear and tips for staying safe when walking at night.

Two friends with headlamps walking together at night
SolStock / Getty Images 

Strobe Lights

Small flashing strobe lights can be clipped to your clothing to provide visibility without adding any weight. Look for them in cycling shops or running stores. They usually have a long-lasting battery and can be turned on and off easily. Strobe lights are especially good at getting drivers' attention at night and making them aware of your presence.

Flashlights and Flashlight Apps

Can you see the path ahead of you to avoid holes and tripping hazards? Many walkers use their cellphone flashlight app. If you didn't realize your phone had one, do a quick search and get acquainted with it. It's very handy, especially if you enter an area without streetlights. You might, however, prefer to carry a dedicated flashlight. If so, choose one that is lightweight but powerful. LED flashlights often have a longer-lasting battery life and are rechargeable via USB. Some, such as WALKBRIGHT, are designed with a red light in the back so you are more visible as well.

Headlamps

If you use arm motion when you walk, you may prefer a headlamp to a flashlight for steady illumination of your path. There are many varieties. Some, such as the Petzl Tactikka LED headlamp, have a single strap with an adjustable angle for the beam. It is lightweight, the batteries last a long time, and the bulbs are nearly unbreakable. Others have a cross-strap over the head for better stability. Look for these headlamp options at outdoor stores.

LED Hats

LED hats incorporate lights in front of the hat or on the brim, and may also have rear safety lights or a strobe. They are an all-in-one option. You can also find clip-on LED lights to add to your favorite baseball cap. One problem with some designs is that you can't adjust the angle of the beam. Look for a hat that will put the spotlight where you need it so it's illuminating your path rather than the horizon. Examples include the Panther Vision PowerCap and the Nite Beams LED Double Vision Running Hat or Visor, which also has red flashers in back and is made of sporty fabric.

Before buying these caps, make sure to check for any washing instructions.

Reflective Clothing and Gear

For lightweight safety, reflective gear like safety sashes, vests, armbands, ankle bands is a good choice. You can keep it simple with an armband or ankle band that has an LED light strip or a flashing light. A lighted sash or a reflective vest that includes a strip of glowing lights on both the front and the back is even better for 360 degrees of safety, as you'll be more visible from every angle. Vests are often made in an airy mesh design for comfort when running. Look for these at running and sporting goods stores.

Glowsticks

Glowsticks aren't just for Halloween or the dance club anymore. Glowing sticks or hoops will set you apart at night. A drawback is that the single-use ones quickly become trash. They also have a limited shelf life, which means you'll have to check their expiration dates rather than trying to stockpile them. Putting them in the freezer once lit may keep them going for several uses. Better still, look for battery-operated glowsticks and dance jewelry, which are popular for use at dance clubs.

More Tips for Walking Safely at Night

Staying safe while walking at night generally means acting defensively. Be proactive and remember that you are an unexpected object for drivers at night.

  • Be sure the driver is aware of your presence in crosswalks and driveways; make eye contact before crossing in front of them, especially if they appear ready to turn right on a red light.
  • Use the sidewalks or paths separated from roads.
  • If there is no sidewalk on a road you're walking on, walk on the side facing traffic (the left side in North America) so you can see oncoming vehicles; you'll have the advantage of seeing the headlights of approaching cars.
  • Remain aware and ready to move off the road. 
  • If you carry a light, hold it on the side that is closest to the flow of traffic.

The Reality in Numbers

More than 5,000 pedestrians are killed by vehicles each year, with a large percentage of fatalities occurring on neighborhood streets. This is a significant public health and safety problem that is killing more Americans than headline-grabbing causes of death such as random gun violence or E. coli bacteria. Don't become a statistic; reflect on this and light up for safety.

A Word From Verywell

Are you guilty of distracted walking at night? In addition to being more visible to reduce your risk of being hit by a vehicle, follow common walking safety precautions like walking single file when walking with others and keeping your eyes on the road (not your phone). It's even more important to stay aware of your surroundings, including tripping hazards and possible "stranger danger," when walking at night.

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Article Sources
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  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Motor vehicle safety. Pedestrian safety. Updated March 6, 2020.