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Staying Safe on Public Transport

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 5 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Public Transport Bus Train Crime

Public transport is generally a very safe way to get about, but incidents do happen and no matter how unlikely you really are to be caught up in one, fearing that you might is a powerful concern in its own right.

While it is sometimes thought that only women and the elderly worry about being victims, staying safe on public transport is relevant to everyone and fortunately, there are a few simple precautions which can help to reduce the risk – and the worry – of your trip.

Travelling Safely

One of the simplest measures is to find out the timetable. The time of your last bus or train home is obviously important, but if you know when any one that you intend to catch will leave, you can avoid hanging around at the bus stop or station, particularly late at night, or in the winter evenings. After dark it is also a good idea to try to catch your ride from a well lit stop or platform, even if that means a little further from home and it can be worthwhile telling someone – a friend or trusted colleague, perhaps – how and where you are going and when you expect to be back.

The theft of mobile phones currently makes up around half of all robberies, so keeping yours out of sight is a good plan – and try to have your travel documents or ticket money in hand, letting you keep your purse or wallet hidden. Opportunistic thieves are on the look out for these and other valuables, so try not to make it too easy for them.

Once on board, there are a number of approaches to making things safer for yourself. If the bus is empty – or it is after dark – it is safer to find a seat on the lower deck, ideally near to the driver or conductor; on trains avoid empty carriages, especially if they have no access corridors – try to find a place with plenty of other people. If having made your choice, you later feel anxious, you can always move or get off at the next stop, if you know the area and you think its is safe to do so.

If anyone does become a real problem, the police advise shouting as loudly as you can to alert other passengers, the driver, guard or conductor. Most criminals are cowards, so making a big fuss – however embarrassing – and drawing attention to what is going on is often all that is needed to stops things dead. Alternatively, pull the emergency cord or ring the bell repeatedly – after all, that is why these alarms are there!

Arriving Safely

It is important not to forget about the other end of your trip, once you get off the bus or train and onto the street. Having someone to meet you is always a good idea, especially in the dark or in unfamiliar areas, but if this is not possible, try to stay with the crowd coming out of the station or bus stop. If you must walk to your destination alone, probably the most obvious piece of advice – as anyone who has ever watched an episode of Taggart or The Bill knows – is that dark alleyways, woods and waste ground are most certainly to be avoided.

Walk purposefully; looking confident is one of the most effective forms of defence – criminals prey on the insecure and vulnerable, so use a bit of reverse psychology against them and try never to look unsettled or anxious, however worried you may be feeling.

Various models of personal alarms are available for very modest cost, which can be reassuring in these circumstances. Most of the commonly sold kinds are electronic, and often have a loud siren and/or a flashing strobe lamp. If you do opt for one of these, carry it where you can reach it quickly should you need to use it, but do remember that although they may deter an attacker, in a deserted place there may be no one to hear the noise, so use them to buy yourself a head start – and then run!

Public transport can be a simple, convenient and eco-friendly way to travel, but unlike driving your own car, you cannot be sure exactly who will be sharing the ride with you. Although the chances of anything nasty actually happening to you on public transport are very, very small, that is not always an easy statistic to hang onto when you are alone and more than a little apprehensive in some gloomy bus shelter late at night. However, with a little forethought, care and common-sense, you can feel confident about reducing the risk to your own safety – definitely one of those times when that proverbial ounce of prevention is worth far more than any pound of cure!

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