It’s pretty obvious that visiting big cities can be a really fun time. From sporting events to hip new restaurants, cities have a lot to offer that other locations don’t. However, with the hustle and bustle comes crime, which can be a serious problem if you’re walking around a city on your own. To find out some basics of pedestrian safety, we researched what the experts had to say about ways to stay safe when walking downtown.
Your demeanor plays a huge role when it comes to safety. Bad guys are typically looking for easy targets, AKA people who look unsure or uncomfortable in their surroundings. If you walk with confidence and look like you know what you’re doing, you’re much less likely to be targeted. Make eye contact with those around you. (I mean, don’t stare them down. That’s creepy.) Always keep your head up so you not only seem confident, but you remain aware of the things going on around you.
Another important thing to remember is to never walk with your headphones on. No matter how badly you want to jam out to the Summer Hits of the 90s Pandora station, your lack of awareness makes you a prime target. The same goes for phone conversations – avoid doing anything that makes you seem distracted or takes your attention away from your immediate surroundings.
Headphone-related pedestrian accidents are on the rise, according to Time magazine. From 2005 to 2011, the number of headphone-related injuries tripled among the pedestrian set, making headphones a sometimes deadly distraction. By tuning into your favorite artist and tuning out the city sounds around you, you can easily miss loud obstacles like cars, trains and ambulances. According to the article, headphones also make pedestrians less aware by separating them from their environment and vital “auditory clues” that can keep them safe.
Cell phones can pose similar threats as well. By focusing more on your cell phone than your surroundings, you make yourself vulnerable to a host of issues. Not only do you put your personal safety at risk by not noticing cars and other speedy obstacles, your lack of awareness can make you a target for attack. Because the number of distracted pedestrians is growing rapidly, big cities like Philadelphia are trying to stop walkers from staring at their phones by posting signs and raising awareness of the issue. In Salt Lake City, you can be fined for listening to music or using electronic devices while crossing the light rail tracks.
Another way to keep safe while strolling is to never stroll alone. Your odds of being attacked decrease by 50% if you’re with another person or even walking a dog. The buddy system is a simple but serious deterrent for crime. Another thing that’s extremely important in these situations is trusting your gut. If you feel like something isn’t right, head toward a populated area. If you see something that makes your stomach churn, cross the street. If a car comes up to you that seems suspicious, run the opposite way. The key factor to personal safety is staying aware of your surroundings and taking everything around you into consideration.
If you’re ever in a dangerous situation or feel that your personal safety is in jeopardy, one of the most important things to do is draw attention to yourself. Whether it’s screaming, jumping or whistling – do whatever it takes to draw eyes to you. If you are near your car, sound the alarm on your key fob. Honk the horn if you’re able to. By doing this, you can attract the attention of anyone nearby, and you may also catch your attacker off guard. And always remember your personal belongings are replaceable –your life is not. If someone is asking for your wallet, your purse, your watch – give it to them. The amount of danger you’re susceptible to if you don’t isn’t worth it.
Discussing all of these scenarios isn’t meant to scare you away from walking around in the big city of your choosing. You can stay safe by doing simple things: putting your phone and headphones away, grabbing a friend and forecasting any potentially dangerous situations.
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