Poor visibility and quiet roads exacerbate safety risks after dark. There are lots of things that you can do to avoid the attention of opportunists so take a moment to read our after-dark safety guide. Think safe – and avoid becoming a target.
Money and Cards
Assess where you are keeping your valuables when you’re out after dark. Choose a zipped or buckled bag (open bags are tempting for pickpockets), roomy enough to hold everything at once, with a secret compartment for high-value items. If you have more than one bag it can be easy to forget or drop one (or more!).
When you’re in a foreign city or out very late, it’s a good idea to keep spare cash (including change for a telephone box) in a different pocket. If the worst happens and you’re relieved of your wallet, you will have enough to get home. If you’re concerned, you could use a money belt – worn inside your clothing, it provides a safe and discreet home for your cards and money. Openly using an MP3, camera or mobile phone can make you a target; these items are the most commonly stolen, so tuck them away when you are walking after dark.
Choosing your Route
Use roads that are well-lit, avoiding dark alleyways and parks. Before leaving the house, store taxi and routefinder numbers on your mobile phone. Walk confidently and purposefully, looking around – most crimes are opportunistic, so don’t give anyone cause to target you.
If you’re often walking at night, or you live near a busy road, it’s a good idea to buy reflective clothing. You needn’t be dressed from head to toe in bright yellow gear: you can buy shoes with reflective stripes, reflective wristbands, or reflective tape, which can be stuck onto your jacket or trousers. For joggers and walkers, reflective outer vests are great for making you visible to drivers and other people. Walk on the right side of the road, so that you are facing oncoming cars.
Walking and Using Public Transport
If you are getting home on foot, don’t use a mobile phone or MP3 player – you can be too distracted to notice things happening around you. Walk calmly and confidently; if you’re in a crowd, keep your bag tucked under one arm, and don’t try to push in the opposite direction. If you should get lost on your way home, there are now telephone directions services – for a monthly subscription, you have access to a local-rate number where operators are available to identify your location and talk you through your route home (or elsewhere). Public transport is another option. On a bus, sit close to the driver, and ask to get off if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable.
Women Travelling Alone
Women are particularly vulnerable to additional threats at night. Quiet streets, unlicensed taxi drivers and busy drinking venues can all pose threats. In bars or restaurants, don’t let your drink or food out of your sight, and don’t accept cigarettes from strangers either – they could be soaked in chemicals that inhibit your system. If you catch a taxi on your own, call it directly from your phone and make sure the taxi driver has your name. Don’t jump into the first taxi that pulls up – unlicensed cabs are increasingly common, with ten women being attacked every month in the capital.
From personal alarms to reflective clothes and numbers on your phone book, a little forward-thinking means you will be well equipped to deal with an emergency. Before you leave, check for all the essentials, and add useful numbers to your mobile phone – local taxi firms, friends, local police and hospitals. You might also include a ‘Directions’ service if you subscribe to one. Personal alarms are cheaply available and give you extra moral support if you’re nervous about walking alone. The very best safety equipment you can take out with you after dark? A good friend to watch your back.