Azusa: Wait! Why are we running away in a straight line!?Logically the fastest way to avoid something that's coming straight at you is to move a few steps aside of its path and let it pass by, but in fiction nobody ever seems to do this. At all. So like a flightless version of Acrophobic Bird, characters being chased by a car, falling rocks, or anything else that travels in one direction will inevitably run straight ahead and try to outrun the threat. They appear to only be able to think in one dimension — escaping that oncoming freight train by jumping off the track just doesn't occur to them. This looks very dramatic on camera, but Fridge Logic kicks in a little while later and you ask "Well why didn't she enter one of the buildings instead of letting the car chase her down the freeway?" Note that this doesn't apply when there's an actual reason that the character can't simply leap to the side: Maybe that car is cruising down a narrow alley where there is no "sideways" for the runner to go, that boulder is rolling down a tunnel with no sidepaths, or those railroad tracks are currently crossing a bridge over a hundred-foot canyon. (These highly specific examples are highly specific because they're some of the few times there's ever been a good justification for outrunning the danger.) Truth in Television: In real life, many animals (including humans) have a natural "herding" response to danger, so having a terrified character run directly away from an approaching threat may not be tactically sound, but it does make sense psychologically. (And if the threat is a predatory animal, simply leaping to the side wouldn't help in the first place because the predator would take note.) Savvy military conquerors have exploited this fact for centuries to herd panicked civilian crowds to where they want them, although they need to keep the crowd in a state of panic so that no-one has a chance to consider the tactical advantages of veering off to the side. And it is the way to maximize the distance between you and the object; if you veer off, the pursuer can follow the straight line to cross less space than you can. See also 2-D Space, No Peripheral Vision and Blind Alley. Slower Than A Speeding Bullet is a common subtrope of this. Can easily come off as Too Dumb to Live in especially egregious cases.
Karina: Oh, right! [steers the M3 to the side]
Karina: Oh, right! [steers the M3 to the side]
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- During Asuna's Training from Hell in Mahou Sensei Negima!, Evangeline uses her Malleus Aquilonis spell to suddenly send an ice boulder rolling down a mountain after Asuna. Having just been thrown out into the icy wilderness naked and now scared out of her wits, Asuna naturally tries to outrun the boulder until she luckily falls on a lower ledge.
- In the Gantz manga and anime, after being caught on the train tracks, Kurono and Katou decide to try and outrun the train to get beyond where the front car will stop. Even if the train hadn't turned out to be a non-stop express, it's unlikely they would have been able to run far enough in time, and the fact that they break off an attempt to climb onto the platform in favor of running seems pretty counter intuitive. They probably would have made it up with help from the bystanders. Then again, the theme of this scene seems to be general apathy and the onlookers' interest in seeing someone die.
- In the second Cardcaptor Sakura movie, Sakura is on a roller coaster track with the coaster coming right at her. She first tries running straight along the track rather than taking one step sideways onto the emergency walkway. Then, when it's about to hit her, she stops time, then stays right where she is, rather than getting out of the way before the spell wears off.
- In episode 17 of Digimon Adventure, the chosen first dodge the cruise liner in the middle of the desert by, sensibly, running to the side. When it it actually start chasing them, though, the trope promptly kicks in full force. Late, in Episode 49, it shows up again as they are fleeing a balled-up Waru Monzaemon.
- In Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, the Tokyo Tower falls, but the characters run parallel to the direction of the falling tower rather than running off to the side.
- In Angel Beats!, one of the traps in the hallways leading to Guild is a rolling boulder. Apparently, this is massively averted, as not only the resident ninja Shiina managed to find a small nook to hide from the boulder (and pull away most of the members, Hinata tackles Otonashi to the corner of the hallway, thereby evading the boulder (remember, a boulder is spherical, the hallway is rectangular, so the edges on the bottom won't be swept by the boulder). Indeed, the only casualty is the guy who kept running.
- Averted in episode 8 of The Third: The Girl with the Blue Eye. Honoka and her tank, Bogie, find themselves on the wrong end of a stampeding herd of sand dragons. Bogie's response, rather than drive away from the dragons, is to drive off to the side and get out of their path. They aren't quite fast enough to get out without damage, but do survive nonetheless.
- Lampshaded in Girls Und Panzer Der Film, when Rabbit Team's tank is running away from a giant Ferris Wheel.
Azusa: Wait, why are we running away in a straight line!?
Karina: Oh, right! [makes a sharp turn out of danger's way]
- The title hero of the comic book Night Man also realizes there is space when a circle (a giant ball) rolls down a square hall. He lies down and rolls to the left, where the floor meets the wall.
Films — Animation
- Monsters vs. Aliens. Susan ran forward away from the meteor, instead of, you know, going left or right. For that matter, she would've been fine where she was at originally, it only hit her because she ran straight into its path.
- The Rule of Funny gives an interesting twist to this one in Who Framed Roger Rabbit: A way too amorous toon is running full bore towards Eddie Valiant. Instead of running away or stepping to the side, he takes the white line on the road that she's running on and directs it into the wall. Naturally, a wall pizza ensues.
Eddie: Toons. Gets 'em every time.
- Similar to the Prometheus example, Toy Story has Buzz Lightyear running away from a globe in a straight line. He slips on some pencils and rolls off to the side to the windowsill out of its path, but then the globe hits a lamp, which swings around and knocks him out of the windowsill.
- Frozen: Kristoff and Sven would have had a much easier time escaping the ship capsizing upon them on the frozen fjord just by swerving a bit to the right; it would have barely slowed them down from reaching Anna. Instead, they ride at full speed in a straight line, right along the ship's length, barely avoiding being crushed.
Films — Live-Action
- In Sharknado, no-one being chased by the rolling dismounted Ferris wheel thinks to run sideways.
- In Star Wars Episode II, Count Dooku uses the Force to push over a giant pillar, directly in the path of a helpless Anakin and Obi-Wan. Yoda just uses the Force to push the pillar off to the side and set it down gently on the floor, right? Nope, he pushes directly against the pillar's momentum, brings it to a stop directly above them, and keeps it floating in the air for a moment. This visibly exhausts him, and it stalls him for long enough for Dooku to escape.
- The first Indiana Jones film, Raiders of the Lost Ark: Close investigation of the scene where Indy is being chased by the boulder will reveal it is on rails (big viney ones) and he could have run towards it, past said rails, when it first appeared, then safely followed its path out of the cave — though he would have needed to get past it at some point, as at the end of the scene it blocks what's apparently the only way out. This is justified in the novelization and the script, where it is explained that the ball would seal Dr. Jones in by blocking the entrance and he knows it. Indy has a very good reason to outrun the boulder.
- In the film Aliens, everyone runs forward when the Drop Ship crashes, instead of moving sideways out of the path of the oncoming debris.
- UHF parodies the trope by showing Al's character running through country after country with a boulder still hot on his heels, apparently never thinking to jump aside. Then the trope is subverted when he does round a corner and the boulder inexplicably follows him.
- Parodied in Wrongfully Accused, when Harisson flees a runaway train by running into the woods—whereupon the train promptly follows him.
- Played with in Mars Attacks! when a flying saucer, planning to crush a group of Boy Scouts, demolishes the base of the Washington Monument, only for them to run out of the way. The saucer then flies around to the other side of the falling obelisk to make it fall the other way. Rinse, repeat.
- Back to the Future:
- Justified in the second film. When Biff tries to run down Marty, they're inside a tunnel and Biff has the speed advantage (and can swerve his car if Marty attempts to dodge.) Then later on, it's subverted as Marty does eventually dodge in a second dimension — upward.
- In the third film, Marty has to think fourth-dimensionally. He's in the DeLorean being pushed along an incomplete train track, but he travels forward in time, to a point where the track is complete.
- The remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) has the human-Krueger do this for a while as angry parents pursue him through an abandoned factory complex.
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. While being pursued by a Red Lectroid driving a truck, Buckaroo runs straight ahead down the road, where he would have inevitably been run down if a Blue Blaze Irregular helicopter hadn't arrived to rescue him.
- An unusual vertical example from Jurassic Park: When Alan is rescuing Tim from the park jeep caught up a tree, and the jeep starts to break through the branches above them and fall, how do they escape? By rapidly climbing down the tree. Not, say, around to the side of the tree trunk where there isn't a falling car.
- In Final Destination, Alex Browning runs away from a falling tree in a straight line. This trope is averted later in the movie, however, when he jumps out of the way of a bus after Clear Rivers alerts him.
- Countess Lisl from For Your Eyes Only is killed when she tries to run away from a car in a straight line.
- Parodied in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. As the protagonists escape on a very slow Road Roller, a lone security guard screams in terror as the roller approaches and proceeds to scream "STOOOOOP!!" multiple times as it approaches, making no attempt to move to the left or right until finally being run over. As he's about 50 feet in front of it when he starts, this takes more than a few seconds.
- In Prometheus, Elizabeth Shaw and Meredith Vickers are running away from a collapsing Space Jockey ship, which hits the ground sideways and begins rolling towards them. They run in a straight line for several moments before Shaw falls down, and only then does she roll away sideways, while Vickers stays the course and gets crushed as a result.
- In Iron Man 3, Tony Stark runs away from a falling water tower in a straight line before it crashes and causes a flood.
- In Daylight, Sylvester Stallone runs straight away from a metal tank that's rolling toward him through waist-deep water. Initially it's this trope, but when the terrified woman who's helping him freezes in the tank's path, he has to keep going straight to intercept her and drag her sideways to safety.
- In Godzilla (2014), except for the unnamed couple with the cute daughter, the crowd running from the tsunami doesn't flee into the buildings to gain height. Averted with the soldiers on the railway bridge, as there's only one direction to run.
- However, this is a realistic way of dealing with Tsunamis in Hawaii - usually, routes to take along surface streets to avoid being hit by waves are clearly marked. It's just that Godzilla hasn't brought just a normal tsunami.
- Subverted in Firestarter. Three men try and run away from a line of fire sent at them by the Tyke Bomb. It seems to be played straight until two of them try changing direction. All for nought when the fire just splits in three and follows them anyway.
- Subverted in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. When Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Ginny and Luna are running away from shelves of crystal balls falling like dominoes in a straight line, initially they don't run to the side out of the path of the falling shelves. They eventually turn around and run in another straight line to the emergency exit door, but the shelves also fall to the sides as well because the shelves falling in one direction also touched the ones to the sides.
- In The Lord of the Rings, when Arwen causes the river to rise, the Nazgûl flee along the river, allowing the waters to overtake them.
- This Cracked article, which also brings up the Prometheus example, talks about how this applies to Christine as well. Namely, when the car traps one of the bullies in an alleyway so narrow the car has to slowly squeeze herself through and comes to a complete stop at least once, the bully doesn't recognize the concept of "up" and never considers climbing over the car and escaping. Even better, the alleyway he's trapped in has narrow ledges all the way around it, meaning that even if he was understandably scared to actually touch the car, he still could have easily climbed out.
- In Pixels, Ludlow Lamonsoff runs away from a giant Pac-Man in the road in a straight line when he could have easily at least tried to avoid Pac-Man by running towards the sidewalk. He almost gets eaten before Eddie Plant saves him by driving a car from the side of the intersection and destroys the giant Pac-Man.
- In Apocalypto, the Mayan slavers play a sadistic game where they allow their prisoners to run away. The first few run in a straight line and get shot with arrows. The next few run in a zig zag, but get hit eventually. Jaguar Paw is the only one who escapes.
- Parodied in Land of the Lost. When Rick Marshall is being chased by a T. rex, he declares the proper procedure is to run in serpentine motion and does so. However, his serpentine motion is so narrow that the T. rex casually follows him anyway.
- The poster for Bullshot shows the Comedic Hero carrying a Damsel in Distress to safety while fleeing from a train straight down the railway.
- Naturally, the narrator of Flatland visits Lineland, a world where this is literally true. The inhabitants of Lineland can't pass each other, and each being only ever sees two things: his two immediate neighbors' eyes/asses. Reproduction is pulled off by having sex partners sing to each other over long distances, which is handy, since at least one of a Linelander's neighbors will always be a parent or sibling.
- Deconstructed/Parodied/somethinged in Dr. Seuss' "The Zax", a short tale in his book ''The Sneetches and Other Stories." A creature called a North-going Zax and another called a South-going Zax run into each other, and both refuse to go around the other since it would require them to move, very slightly, in a direction different than they're used to. Their refusal to compromise means they basically stand glaring at each other forever while a highway overpass is built over their heads.
- Averted in Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where the Technical Boy is able to run down Bilquis with his limo because she was trapped on a road with a sheer, muddy climb up on one side and a sheer drop off a cliff on the other. She tried to get out of the way, but the surroundings themselves had her trapped.
- In the bad TV mini-series 10.5, a bicyclist tries to outrace the Space Needle as it breaks from its base and comes crashing to the ground... when he could have easily biked all of six feet to either side of or behind the base, and avoided the whole problem.
- An appearance of this trope in MacGyver, episode "Fire and Ice" almost suggests that there is a mystical force that compels people to run in a straight line in front of oncoming objects. A man hit by a truck at the beginning of the episode would have been perfectly safe if he had not gone out of his way to run in front of the truck.
- In the pilot episode of Lost, Jack, Hurley, and Claire run from the plane's falling wing. None thinks to run sideways out of its path.
- Appears in an episode of Criminal Minds, where a serial killer runs over people with a truck. What makes it worse is that he's a serial killer, so he has done this repeatedly without anyone just running off the side of the road.
- Justified in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. The crew learn that a highly radioactive Negative Space Wedgie is heading straight towards them, and it's going faster than the ship can. They proceed to evacuate the whole crew into heavily-shielded areas to survive. They do consider the idea of simply getting out of its way, but it's too large for them to try to get out of its way before it hits them, and going too fast to outrun.
- Played hilariously straight in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, in which Chakotay is running from the bad guys, and he stays on a winding path instead of just cutting across the grass.
- Justified in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode New Ground, where the Enterprise is deliberately holding position in front of the speeding Soliton Wave so as to be able to disperse it. Also inverted, since to get into that position, the Enterprise has to take a rough ride through the wave. Although dialogue suggests the wave is too big to fly around, special effects suggest it is no bigger than the Enterprise.
- Subverted in an episode of The Big Bang Theory, where Sheldon, who shown as afraid of hospitals, dodges a gurney carrying a sick person by ducking into a nearby door. Unfortunately for him, the room is an isolation ward for a patient with a highly infectious disease.
- In Walking With Monsters, a fish is being chased by a sea scorpion. Despite the fact that the fish can swim, but the sea scorpion can only walk on the bottom of the ocean, the fish tries to go faster than the scorpion. It takes the appearance of a larger scorpion for the fish to finally swim up where neither scorpion can get it.
- In Star Trek "Balance of Terror," the Enterprise flies directly away from the Romulan ship's blasts rather than trying to evade.
- In the Game of Thrones episode "Battle of the Bastards", Rickon runs straight away from Ramsay, who is shooting at him with arrows, rather than run in serpentine fashion to make it harder for Ramsay to hit him, which gets him killed. Because he's little more than a child, lives in a world where lone people are rarely shot at by ranged weapons outside of mass battles, and doesn't have access to media to give him advice about such a scenario, it's likely that it simply doesn't occur to him that running in zig-zags would be safer.
- Radiohead's music video for "Karma Police" features nothing but a long, straight road, a car, and a man on that road running away from the car. He never once thinks to run off either side of the road. However, the expected outcome of such a chase is subverted, since the car actually slows down to match the man's running speed. The man later gets revenge on the car by lighting a trail of gasoline leaking from it, which inverts the trope when car's unseen driver exhibits One-Dimensional Thinking by driving backwards on the road in a futile attempt to escape the flames.
- This is/was prevalent sometimes in Dungeons & Dragons. In cases where the players get in a minor fight and the DM decides it's not worth drawing a map, or when they go Off the Rails into a space the DM hadn't mapped, everything tends to become one dimensional, since all you generally know is everyone's distance from you.
- Samurai Shodown is the first and probably only Fighting Game franchise in which you can lie down on the floor to dodge a horizontal swipe or a projectile. It is possible (sometimes) in Super Smash Bros. as well.
- In Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, a giant sword is about to crash into the ground blade side down. Sasuke tries to dodge this by running parallel directly underneath the sword. (Whether it works or not is up to Press X to Not Die).
- In Twisted Metal (2012), at the end of the final campaign, Dollface wishes to model on the "biggest runway in the world", and gets deposited on the tarmac at an airport runway. She sees a plane headed directly towards the runway she's standing on, and instead of running off to the side, she runs in the opposite direction. She then breaks her heel and stays on the ground monologuing (instead of rolling out of the way) until the plane crushes her).
- Another rare justification pops up in Resident Evil 4. Leon appears to be playing this straight by sprinting ahead of two rolling boulder traps when he has room to dodge them, but he does it to get enough distance from them so he can safely dive off to the side without getting caught in its path and crushed.
- Subverted in Professor Layton and the Curious Village, when the heroes are being chased by a giant ferris wheel that broke loose from its frame. They try to escape by turning a corner. The wheel follows them round and keeps on going.
- World of Warcraft has a variation caused by MMORPG mechanics. Many people will run away from an enemy attacking them, maybe also using abilities to hide, which is close to 100 percent reliable in solo play. In group combat, though, the smartest thing to do when under attack by a monster you can't handle is to run towards the biggest monster around. Crazy as that may sound, it's because that big monster is probably beating on your party's tank, whose job is to keep the monster's attention on them and usually can easily survive just one more.
- True of nearly every boss battle and giant boss battle in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, where Mario and Luigi will end up running straight away from the boss in a straight line rather than just stepping a bit to the side. Or in the case of the giant battles, take on a charging foe/fired projectile head on rather than step to the left or right and let it pass by. See, the battles with Grobot, Bowser, Antasma, Pi'illodium, Drilldigger...It is pretty epic though.
- Fatal Fury and its sequels introduced a second plane which characters could jump to to avoid attacks along the two-dimensional plane.
- Grand Theft Auto V has a random event where your character gets tasered and wakes up lying on some train tracks with a train bearing down on you. Every panicked player ran off the tracks... right?
- In Monster Hunter, doing this when a monster is charging toward you is usually a bad idea since most of them can move faster than you, so players will often avoid these attacks by running to the side. However, the Jade Barroth actually encourages this, because it can make a u-turn when it charges, catching anyone that moved to the side, meaning the easiest way to avoid it is to actually play this trope straight.
- Happens repeatedly throughout the Sonic the Hedgehog video games. In the 2-D platformers, him running directly away is logical due to the nature of the genre. In 3-D platformers, when Sonic is being chased by something non-sentient, it's always either in narrow corridors (such as with the boulder in Sonic Adventure, as it's inside a Mayan-inspired temple) or with steep precipices on both sides (such as with the giant rolling wheels in Sonic Heroes, set on a small stone path surrounded by deep ocean). The home console version of Sonic Generations takes the cake, however, with no less than six stages where something is chasing Sonic and he must run away, plus a boss fight where Sonic's opponent creates a giant ball of scrap parts that he then rolls at Sonic down a highway.
- Dead Island has this trope filled when you face a Ram (an special zombie) that runs you over if the player tries to simply outrun and/or don't dodge it in time.
- Parodied in this Irregular Webcomic! strip where Monty Jones wises up to it.
- Webcomic example: In this page of Girl Genius, Baron Wulfensbach seems to be having an "I'm Surrounded by Idiots..." moment as two of his top scientists demonstrate this trope.
- Bob and George Averted here because the author really was annoyed by this trope
- Penny Arcade lampshades the Prometheus example in This PSA strip (spoilers).
- The second Halloween episode in The Simpsons features Mr. Burns being crushed by a robot. He hobbles as fast as he can - straight ahead, in the direction the statue is falling, rather than a few steps to the side, which would have allowed him to avoid it entirely.
- In Happy Tree Friends, Lumpy runs away from a falling tree in a straight line in the episode Out on a Limb before tripping on a rock and the tree falls on his right leg and he has to cut it off.
- This is also how Lifty and Shifty run away from Splendid's laser vision in Gems the Breaks before hiding in a lake.
- The Powerpuff Girls: An episode has Princess Morbucks getting hit by a de-powering ray because she's too evil to simply fly out of its way.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Rainbow Dash regularly tries to evade ground based hazards by flying along the ground. Given that her greatest flight skill is speed, and she is depicted as Brilliant, but Lazy, it makes sense she'll go for her strengths and try to outfly things rather than just going up.
- In an episode of The New Batman Adventures, the police have found the batcave. Luckily, Batman has a giant penny on display, which is knocked out of its stand and rolled towards the cops. They all run directly away from it.
- Just jump down from the conveyor belt or away from the runaway coal cart, Scooby-Doo.
- In the Family Guy episode Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q, Quagmire kills Jeffrey Fecalman by ramming him into a tree in his car, a fate Jeff could have avoided by sidestepping said car.
- Peter Griffin also does this in Internal Affairs when he runs away from an ice cream truck driven by Ernie the Giant Chicken in a straight line. Just when Ernie thinks he ran Peter over, Peter hangs onto the front of the truck.
- Drawn Together has Foxxy Love running away from a giant marshmallow in a straight line similar to when Indiana Jones ran away from the boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark until Wooldoor Sockbat gets her out of the way.
- Lampshaded in The Amazing World of Gumball's The Allergy, which has Gumball telling Darwin and Anais to run away from a falling panda truck in a straight line. Anais points out how stupid that was when they could have run to the side after the fact, but they still managed to outrun the truck in a straight line anyway.
- Subverted in Star vs. the Forces of Evil's The Banagic Incident, where Star Butterfly is in a shopping cart going down a slope road in a straight line away from people from a pirate-themed restaurant (who she mistook for actual pirates), and almost hits a bus going in the opposite direction towards her when she doesn't turn the cart to the side, but then uses magic to conjure up a horse in the road who kicks her cart over the bus and in front of the As Featured On TV store.
- In real life, human beings have a natural instinct to run directly away from a threat during times of panic. Panicked crowds behave the same way, a fact that has been exploited for centuries by conquering hordes.
- A specific example is running away from shooters, despite the speed of a bullet. In the off-chance you are being shot at, it's better to run in a zig-zag (going to left and right as you run forward) thus presenting the shooter with a moving target, not just a shrinking, but stable and thus easier-to-hit one.
- If you're ever caught in an emergency scenario wherein your car is in the path of an oncoming train, the safest direction to run isn't away or to the side, but rather, toward the direction the train is coming from after moving to the side, to minimize the chance of getting hit by the doomed car's shrapnel. Also, don't go running back to the car for your boyfriend's class ring.
- Alternatively, if your car stalls on the tracks, the starter engine can sometimes be used to move your car off the tracks. Just put your manual transmission in first gear and release the clutch, or put your automatic in forced gear one, then turn the key as though you were starting the car. Unfortunately, almost all cars on the road today have a built-in safety feature that prevents the starter from engaging if the transmission isn't in Park or Neutral, or the clutch isn't depressed. Or, if you have half a minute or so, put it in neutral and push.
- Similar to a train, if you are in a vehicle caught in the path of an oncoming tornado, and you have the option to escape in the vehicle, you want to move at a right angle to the tornado's apparent direction. While the average tornado moves at a forward speed of about 35 mph, some tornadoes have been known to move at up to 80 mph, meaning they can outpace a car, as can the debris they throw. While it is uncommon, they can also double back without warning, and in worst case scenarios can make a sudden left turn (usually to the north), so moving in the opposite direction the tornado seems to be moving in is not a reliable means of escaping.
- Most people don't realize that rip tides are usually very narrow. Hundreds of people die every year because they didn't realize that they could swim 30 feet to the side to escape the current that's dragging them out to sea.
- When the Gimli Glider was making its emergency landing at the decommissioned runway in Gimli, Manitoba, the pilots were horrified to see two kids riding bikes on the runway, who, when they saw the plane, turned and tried to outrun a 767 coming in at 200+ knots. Fortunately they had enough of a head start, and the 767's collapsed front gear slowed the plane fast enough, that they actually made it. This was dramatically/hilariously depicted in the TV movie; the kid in question is clearly so terrified that he can't take the obvious step, but he eventually figures it out just in time and the plane whizzes by him.
- Averted by default and taken advantage of in police chases - officers are taught that when the car in front of them goes around a turn they'll slow down, and this can be good time to ram the car. Many police cars have reinforced bumpers for this purpose.
- Animal experts recommend that when one must run away from a hungry crocodilian, the best way to do so is by running in a zig-zag pattern, because while crocodilians can sprint really fast in a straight line, they can't turn on a dime. On the other hand, they don't usually give chase at all beyond a brief surprise attack.
- Animals often run directly away from danger, as this is a better way of escaping from a predator. Turning while running will put them at a disadvantage, as the predator can cut the corner to catch up. This causes a problem with cars, as they don't know the car is not (usually) actively chasing them, moving at a speed they could never hope to run away from, or stuck on a marked path.
- Emus take this fallacy one step further: when approached by a car, they have a nasty habit of dashing in front of it for a few meters before crossing to the other side of the road. The roads in the Outback are littered with emu corpses, for good reason.
- Sheep are apparently known for doing this too. This is where the sheep game comes from; the farmer (mouse) should be providing the sheep food and shelter, but sheep are extremely nervous and run away.
- Averted by eastern gray squirrels, but badly. When presented with a threat, they run towards the nearest tree or the tree they came down from. They will do this even if it takes them into the path of danger more so than sitting still.
- Small mammals in general tend to go for shelter rather than try to put distance between themselves and threats. This can lead to unwise decisions, like running under a car that's paused at a stop sign.
- There are a lot of videos of cows, moose and camels getting run over by trains as they try and outrun the thing on the track.
- Rabbits and hares have an interesting tactic which avoids this trope, and serves them well against vehicles: They try to outrun a predator in a fairly straight line, but when it has closed in too much, make an instant turn of ninety degrees or more. Most predators will overshoot the turn, increasing the distance again.
- Gazelles and the like do this as well, and for good reason, most of the predators they face are bigger than them, and can only chase in short bursts, and stopping in one direction and speeding up in another is more exhausting for bigger animals than smaller ones.
- Bullfighting is humans taking advantage of this trope vs. bulls. See Western Animation above for a fictional example.
- A very specific variant is that, when being chased by an angry rhinoceros of any species, the best situation is not to try and outrun an animal with that kind of momentum, but to stand one's ground and quickly jump to the side at just the right moment. Of course, you still have a somewhat slim chance of survival any time an animal the size of a truck is angry at you—this is just slightly better. Though if your timing and reflexes are particularly bad, you may be better off trying to run.
- On the other hand, if a dangerous hoofed animal hasn't noticed you yet, moving directly away from it is better than moving across its field of vision, as such animals' eyesight is better-attuned to spot lateral movement than motion straight towards or away from them. Retreating slowly, and doing so only when it lowers its head to browse, is better than running in such a situation.
- One of the (many) plans to prevent Earth from being hit by a civilization-ending asteroid is not to slow it down or divert it, but accelerate the rock so it crosses Earth's orbit long before the planet does. Mass is much easier to manipulate if you have inertia on your side.
- Inertia is a tendency of an object to maintain its motion (Newton's First Law). So how exactly is it easier to speed up an object rather than slow it down?
- Because asteroids weigh less than Earth, and more massive objects accelerate less readily than less massive objects. Tow the lighter object out of the exact speed and path that will allow it to collide with Earth, and it won't collide with earth.
- That's true, but according to physics, accelerating the object to decrease its velocity (in the absence of friction) is exactly as difficult as accelerating the object to increase its velocity by the same amount.
- Inertia is a tendency of an object to maintain its motion (Newton's First Law). So how exactly is it easier to speed up an object rather than slow it down?
- Inverted in air combat in the pure gunnery era, i.e. up to the mid 1950s. When trying to escape or outrun a pursuing enemy, zigzagging is a bad idea as it reduces your forward velocity away from your pursuer. Only when they get within gun range and can start taking accurate shots at you does zigzagging begin to make sense. Clever pursuers would sometimes open fire out of range to spook their prey into zigzagging too early. Perversely, in the missile era it's almost a better idea to stay and fight, all else being equal, as all but the shortest-range missiles are much faster at any height than a combat aircraft trying to run away in a straight line.