Should you run a straight line or zigzag to escape danger?

Alan R. lives in Shasta County, California. One day, he was sitting at a park when a group of teenagers stole his motorized scooter.

Alan said, “I saw them at the Circle K and walked up to them.”

As Alan approached the teens one of them pulled out a gun and started firing shots at him.

“When I saw him point the gun at me, I tried to dodge the bullets,” said Alan.

A total of three rounds were fired at Alan. One hit a gas pump, another hit the post behind him.

Alan said he moved quickly to the left and to the right to dodge the bullets. He even rolled on the ground at one point to avoid the rounds.

“I finally rolled behind a car that was in the parking lot. They ran off, probably because they didn’t want to get cut up for stealing my stuff,” he said.

After the bullets rang out Alan used a machete to chase after the teens. He said, “I always have my machete on my side. I grabbed that and took after them.”

The Shasta County Sheriff’s Office located the teens, and the shooter was arrested.

Luckily, no one was hurt during the shooting, and Alan’s scooter was returned to him.

Now, with violent crime increasing in many parts of the country more innocent people are being subjected to violence.

And many times, when violence erupts, the first instinct for many people is to run away.

Which brings up the question: when running away from danger, is it useful to run in a zigzag pattern?

Here are a few things to consider if you find yourself caught in the middle of a violent situation and are looking to escape.

Animal behavior:

We can learn a lot from animals. If you have ever stumbled upon a rabbit, you may have noticed they run away in a zigzag pattern.

They zigzag back and forth to throw off and wear down their pursuer. Other species do this as well. It can work in nature.

Naturally, if a predator is trying to focus on a target it is harder to do so when the target is running in a zigzag rather than a straight line.


When running away from a threat the most important factor is speed. The quicker you get behind cover, the safer you will be.

Running in a straight line to safety is always going to be faster than running in a zigzag.

And that’s one reason running in a zigzag is not always the most effective.

In addition, if you have physical limitations such as bad knees you could risk injury or falls by trying to run in a zigzag.

Plus, if you are carrying a backpack or other gear you could be slowed down and even thrown off balance as your gear shifts during the zigzag.


Some tests have been conducted to see if running in a zig-zag pattern is better than a straight line.

These tests typically involve shooters – using simunition rounds – trying to hit people who are running away.

One result from these tests is that people who run away in a zigzag pattern tend to suffer less serious wounds.

The zigzag made it more difficult for the shooter to get a good target acquisition on the person running.

Another result of the tests was that people shouldn’t run away in a crouched position because it slows you down. Running away while standing helps you get away quicker.

So should you run away in a zigzag?:

The short answer is that running in a zigzag will make you a harder target, but it will take you more time to get to safety.

The decision to run in a zigzag pattern is a personal choice. It should be based on your physical abilities and whether you are carrying extra gear or children.

When you decide to run away, you should be looking to get away as quickly and safely as possible.

Also, keep in mind: if you are armed, your best option might be to confront the threat and not risk getting hurt while running away.

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