If you live in a large city, or are a student, or maybe you just can’t afford a car, you are going to be riding the bus after dark at some point, unless you’re willing to pay for cabs everywhere. Even if it gets dark early in the evening it is not smart to assume you are safe because as soon as the sun goes down there are going to be those less than savory characters who are going to take advantage of it and be looking for an easy mark. Here are some tips to help you stay safe.
1. Carry a backpack rather than a large bag or purse if you are a woman, and wear the backpack as it was intended on your back with both arms through the straps, leaving your hands and arms free. Also, if it has a strap that attaches over your middle, snap that into place as well. Make sure all your zippers, snaps and velcro are closed tightly. If it is going to be too much trouble to get that backpack off of you, or get something out of it without your knowing then a thief is going to look for another mark.
2. If you wait at a bus stop that is not well lit, carry a flashlight. Carrying a flashlight has two purposes, it can be used to protect yourself if you are attacked while waiting for a bus, and you can use it to signal the bus driver who might not otherwise see you that you are there.
3. Be alert to your surroundings. Be aware of what is going on around you, an alert and aware person is a safer person. Don’t stand there and read by streetlight, or put your headphones on, these can muffle your senses and make you an easier mark for attack, or theft.
4. Put your bus fare in your pocket or hold it in your hand so that you aren’t digging in your purse for change; this can leave you open and less aware of your surroundings. Keep a wallet and or purse in your backpack instead, that way it gives the illusion you don’t even have a purse.
5. As much as possible keep at least one hand free, both if you are able to. If both your hands are full whether it be with a book, or your purse you are going to be more vulnerable and less able to protect yourself.
6. Don’t assume that just because you get on the bus safely that you are safe and don’t have to stay aware. While you can let your guard down a bit, stay alert and aware to what is going on around you, because passengers can get into fights, or pull guns or any other number of dangerous things. Being on a bus is no guarantee of safety.
7. Depending on how late it is at night, sit at the front of the bus near the bus driver. While this does not guarantee your safety it definitely ups the odds in your favor. This will help prevent someone who might think they are going to harass you, or steal from you to think twice about it; those kinds of people generally don’t want to be caught.
8. Some inner city public transportation systems will allow a bus driver to drop you off at your front door if it is on the route, and very late at night. If you are riding the bus late at night, and your system allows this, take advantage of it. A good bus driver will even wait and watch as you get inside the front door of your building or house.
9. Keep a cell phone in your pocket in case you are followed, or some other reason you might need to call 911. Cell phones have made our dangerous world that much safer because there has been more than one instance of a young woman or man using one to call for help. Even if you just purchase one of those pre-paid deals that you only use for emergencies it is worth it.
10. Consider carrying a personal alarm or pepper spray. Not all women or men for that matter choose to carry these, but they can be helpful when you find yourself in a dangerous situation and not just at night. A personal alarm is just what it sounds like, you pull the string and the device lets out a screeching noise that doesn’t let up until you put the string back in the slot. They are very handy, particularly if you are someone who thinks they might be too afraid to scream loudly enough if someone does attack. Of course everyone knows what pepper spray is from television, even if you haven’t ever used it before. These two things are great deterrents but they are based on the idea that you can get a hold of them enough to actually use them, so while they are nice, putting the other tips into play so you don’t have to use them is the best idea.
Many of these tips will actually work for anyone who has to travel at night, but being a long time bus rider for many years myself, I have found them to be especially useful in this particular situation.