Most women will find themselves having to walk alone at night at one time or another. Even in suburban and rural areas, the rising costs of car maintenance and transportation has increased the number of women resorting to traveling on foot. There are many reasons that you might find yourself walking at night, including emergencies, temporary loss of transportation, and last-minute schedule changes. This article will provide you with 5 basic safety tips to help you protect yourself.
Staying alert and aware of danger signs can help you prevent becoming the victim of an attack or other crime. Before you start out to your destination, make sure to text or call a close friend or family member so that they know that you are going. This is a good way of ensuring that someone knows where you are in case something unexpected happens.
If walking will be a long-term arrangement, consider investing in some self-defense classes, especially those targeted toward women. You can learn a few basic, easy moves to help yourself in case you are attacked on the street. In the short-term, read on to learn specific ways to keep safe.
Tip 1: Attempt to find an alternate way to your destination
Before you try walking alone, attempt to arrange something safer. Consider your options—ask friends, family members, or trusted coworkers for a ride. You can also look into your local public transportation options. If you can afford it, hiring a cab is a great investment. If those options don’t work, try asking a friend or coworker to walk with you. There truly is safety in numbers—a potential criminal is less likely to target a pair or group than an individual.
Tip 2: Stay alert and appear engaged
If you do have to walk, make yourself less of a potential target. Keep your head lifted and your eyes forward, occasionally scanning from side to side to catch what is going on around you. Don’t spend too much time staring at your phone. You want to be very aware of who and what is around you at all times, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area.
Even though you may be tempted, an important part of being aware is being able to hear what is going on. So keep your headphones off until you reach your destination. If you know beforehand that you will be walking home, bring comfortable running shoes or sneakers that you can change into. The last thing you want to do is jog or run in high heels.
Tip 3: Stay on busy streets and avoid questionable places
Whenever possible, stay around crowds on the main streets and trails. By staying in heavily frequented areas you reduce your risk of crime. Most criminals prefer dark alleyways and hidden places so that they won’t be seen. Plan out the path you’re going to take, using a directions app if your phone has one so that you can avoid questionable locations. Be especially wary in places like parking lots at night, because even though these are heavily used during the day, criminals often hang out at night there to wait for victims and make a quick getaway.
Before you go around a corner, step out further from the building so that you can peer around the side and make sure there are no dangers lurking ahead, like a predator. If you’re in a location without sidewalks, walk along the side of the road in the opposite direction of the traffic. Try to stay away from areas with dense trees, no streetlights, or dirt paths instead of paved roads.
Tip 4: Always trust your gut instincts
Suppose during your journey, you get the feeling something isn’t quite right. You may tell yourself that you’re just being paranoid, but it’s always better to trust your instincts than to be the victim of a crime. If you pick up signs of fishy behavior, like an unfamiliar car that keeps circling the block around you or someone suspicious, you should immediately divert from your planned route. Head to the busiest area you can find. If you are really worried, either call the police immediately or find someone at the nearest gas station or other open business who can do it.
Another scenario is discovering that you’re being followed. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to be aware of the people around you. Scan the faces of travelers that you pass. If you keep seeing the same person even after you change streets, that could be a sign. They might walk ahead of you or off to the side instead of behind you, but if they keep reappearing over a significant walk, that’s a red flag. Another potential danger sign is a car that slows down and follows a few paces behind you.
When you become aware of these signs, stay calm. Keep your pace brisk and steady, and don’t let on that you know you’re being followed. Don’t start jogging or running. Most importantly, change your course instead of heading home. You don’t want the person to know where you live. Instead, head for the most occupied place you can find. Stay there and call the police, and don’t leave until they’ve arrived and checked the situation.
Tip 5: If your night travel is frequent, bring some helpful items along
If you’re going to be walking at night on numerous occasions, consider bringing a few handy items to aid in keeping you safe. The most important is a flashlight. You can find one in pocket size and some even fit on a keychain. Even in well-lit cities, a flashlight can guide you through unexpected dark areas like alleys. It can also be used to momentarily blind would-be attackers or to signal for help. For high-traffic areas, a bright vest with reflective strips can keep you safe because oncoming cars will see you. Consider purchasing some pepper spray if it’s legal where you live, especially if there is a high crime rate.
Walking home can be worrisome for any woman, no matter your age or the area in which you live. However, with these tips, you can minimize many dangers, stay alert, and increase your chances of arriving home safely.