13 Tips For Commuting Safely In The Dark
Commuting in the dark is inevitable for those who work in the night-time economy and becomes a consideration for most other people when the clocks go back during autumn, meaning dusk will arrive earlier and even more of us will be travelling to and from work in the dark.
Travelling in the dark presents a specific set of risks, including increased crime rates, fewer people around and reduced visibility. Our own research has shown that 60% of people have personal safety fears when commuting during this time and this is backed up by ONS research on perceptions of personal safety.
There is often a tendency to overlook hazards in familiar settings or after a long busy day, but not paying attention to your surroundings can have serious implications. Here is our advice for commuting to and from work safely in the dark:
1. Plan your route beforehand
You may not be familiar with your route if you’re travelling somewhere new, it differs from the way you normally go, or if you are using a different method of transport to get to work. In any of these cases, it can be useful to practice your route in daylight and check your route before setting off.
If you get lost or need to look at directions, find a public place e.g. supermarket, fast food restaurant, or transport hub to stop safely and check your route. This will help you to avoid wandering around aimlessly where you can become more vulnerable to attack.
2. Make someone aware of your route
Let your colleagues know that you’ll be walking or getting public transport into the office and when you should arrive. If possible, exchange mobile numbers with a trusted colleague so that you can let someone know if there is an issue.
Having someone know your estimated arrival time means that they can send help if you fail to arrive when expected and having someone know your route means that in the event of an emergency, they will have an idea of where you may be. Some smartphones also let you share your location with trusted contacts, which could be a friend, family member or co-worker.
3. Walk with confidence
Keep your head up and walk at a steady pace, don’t be afraid to make eye contact with passers-by – this makes you less of a target to potential attackers as you will seem confident and self-assured. Try to avoid doing things that make you look nervous or intimidated.
Studies show that people who look confident give potential attackers the impression that they would put up a fight and are therefore less likely to be targeted.
4. Choose appropriate clothing
Choosing appropriate clothing and footwear is not only important for comfort, but also for safety. Sensible shoes such as flats or trainers will allow you to make a quick getaway, should it be needed. If you wear other shoes at work, these can be left at the office or carried in a bag.
Sensible clothing also includes weather appropriate extras. Checking the weather beforehand can help you avoid spending unnecessary time sheltering under a dark bus stop in the rain and prolonging your journey.
5. Wear bright clothing or reflective bands
When commuting, risks are not limited to suspicious people. Areas with low visibility can be prone to accidents involving vehicles and bikes. Wearing reflective or brightly coloured clothing allows drivers and bikers to see you as you walk along, particularly in areas without streetlights.
A torch or headlight can also help drivers see you if there are dark stretches of road on your route. If you don’t own a torch, most mobile phones can be used as torches to provide an additional source of light or means to be seen.
6. Stick to public areas where you can be seen
Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts through woods, alleyways, fields, or parkland. Areas with fewer members of the public, fewer streetlights, and more places for a potential aggressor to hide increase the risk of danger and should be avoided where possible. Instead, opt for a longer route with more lighting and more people around who could help in an emergency.
7. Stay aware of your surroundings and limit distractions
Stay alert and aware of your surroundings, stand straight up, look ahead, and pay attention to what is going on around you. If you wear headphones, ensure your volume is at a reasonable level and keep one earbud out so that you can still hear any potential dangers, such as someone walking or driving up behind you.
Keep your phone accessible in case you need to call for help, but don’t let it distract you. When walking, avoid watching a video or playing a game; when commuting on public transport, stay vigilant by regularly looking up from the screen.
8. Walk in the direction of oncoming traffic
Always walk facing traffic so you can see cars and other vehicles coming towards you. This ensures you’ll be aware if there’s an accident ahead and vehicles can’t pull up behind you. It also limits the risk of being hit by a vehicle as you can step out of the way if you see something coming towards you.
9. Avoid carrying lots of bags
Keep your hands as free as possible, so that you can react if needed. Being weighed down makes you an easier target for those looking to cause harm. If you have things to carry, put these in as few bags as possible and use a backpack.
10. Keep your valuables hidden
Don’t walk around with expensive jewellery or gadgets out on display as this could make you a target. Smartphone theft in particular is on the rise, with 325,000 phones stolen annually, so keep yours out of obvious sight to avoid becoming a target for thieves who are largely opportunistic may turn violent.
11. Keep Your Keys Close
Always keep your keys close at hand when you are travelling alone: this could be in a pocket, at the top of a bag, or in your hand. Many smaller crimes are not pre-meditated and the sight of someone spending a prolonged period of time struggling to find something in their bag or coat is an ideal target for a criminal.
12. Carry a personal alarm
Over a million free personal safety apps have been downloaded by people taking personal safety into their own hands. Typically, these apps rely on existing contacts (e.g. family and friends) to respond in an emergency.
Professional alarms and apps offer additional features and are linked to a monitoring centre (ARC) which responds to any alarms raised. If you’ve been issued a personal safety alarm by your employer, remember to take it with you on your journey and make sure it has enough charge on it to last the duration of your journey.
If you don’t complete high-risk tasks at work, but feel unsafe as a result of work-related activities (e.g. commuting), you could talk to your employer about implementing a personal safety service, such as Peoplesafe.
If you feel unsafe and have a personal safety device or app then activate it, even if nothing has happened yet. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
13. Trust your instincts
When commuting in the dark, trust your gut. If you feel like a situation is not right, don’t take any chances. Cross the road, change your route, or walk as quickly as possible to a well-lit public place. Here you can call a friend or family member, or a taxi to help you get home safely. If you’re in a situation or environment where you feel unsafe or scared, it is essential to remove yourself from the situation and, if you need it, find help.
While following these tips will increase your safety while commuting in the dark, it’s essential to be aware of your surroundings and take safety precautions no matter where or when you walk alone. For further advice on staying safe when walking to work, you may want to read this article on what to do if you are being followed.