BY BRIANNE SANDORF
Commuting to school is a far different beast from living on campus. While there are benefits to commuting (financial savings, living in non-student communities), it has its drawbacks. Commuting often means long travel times and can create a disconnect from on-campus activities. Most importantly, commuters also have unique safety concerns that on-campus students don’t deal with.
Here are some tips for commuting safely to your college campus.
Dress for the weather
Commuters who walk, bike, or use public transportation to campus are at the mercy of the elements. To avoid getting caught unprepared in unfavorable weather conditions, check the forecast before leaving in the mornings and dress accordingly.
On hot days, wear sunscreen and carry water. On cold days, dress warmly. This may mean wearing a hat, scarf, and/or gloves. If you do wear gloves, wear a pair with touchscreen-compatible tips. The last thing you want to do in the cold is remove your gloves to look something up or send a text.
Keep your vehicle secure
If you take a bike to school, keep it locked up. A stolen bike could strand you, which could lead to other safety problems.
Similarly, make sure you don’t park your car in a no-parking zone. Most colleges offer permits for on-campus parking. If you choose to park somewhere off campus, be aware of No Parking signs, fire hydrants, and red curbs. And don’t leave valuables in sight inside your car. You don’t want to tempt would-be thieves.
Keep emergency equipment in your car
Commuters who drive to school sometimes have to travel in rough weather. Or, even if it’s a mild, sunny day, your car could still break down.
First off, keep a car phone charger on hand so that you can call for help. Secondly, prepare for emergencies by keeping a roadside kit, a first aid kit, and a 72-hour kit in your backseat or trunk. 72-hour kits contain essentials like thermal blankets and enough food and water for three days. While most car trouble takes just hours to resolve, it’s better to be prepared with extra supplies than stranded with too few. If you live in a snowy area, you should also carry a shovel, an ice scraper, and rock salt.
Be a careful pedestrian
If you walk as part of your commute, follow traffic safety laws. At busy intersections, impatient students frequently dart into traffic during green lights. They make it to class on time…but they put themselves at risk of being hit.
It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll make it, especially when there are no cars in sight, but it’s dangerous to jaywalk or use a crosswalk without waiting for a traffic signal. Keep yourself safe by waiting.
Do you have early mornings or late nights on the road or at the bus stop? Wear something light, bright, and easy to see.
You can also consider wearing accessories that light up or carrying a flashlight. And, if you’re worried about being seen by the arriving bus, you can always turn your phone screen or flashlight on and wave it to make sure the bus doesn’t pass you by.
When you’re walking or using public transportation, you might find yourself in an unfamiliar area or with someone you don’t know. Most people are harmless, but a small percentage are predators. So make sure you have a way to defend yourself.
Many college campuses don’t allow firearms, but some offer self-defense classes. You can also invest in pepper spray, a stun gun, or a keychain knife if your state allows it. As a last resort, thread your keys in between your fingers to create a makeshift weapon.
Have a plan for late nights
If you have to go to campus at night for a class or activity, be cautious. Walking around late is risky, especially if you’re on your own. Your first move should be to let someone (a roommate, a parent) know where you are and when you expect to arrive home.
Campus safety escorts are a common safety measure, so if your school has them, take advantage of the service. If you’re feeling unsafe, request an escort and stay put until they come. If you choose not to use an escort or your school doesn’t offer this service, stay in well-lit areas. Don’t venture off the beaten path, even if you have a good reason.
Brainstorm ideas for your specific commute
The tips listed here are useful, but they aren’t the only things you can do to protect yourself. For maximum commuter safety, think about your commute and identify any other potential concerns. Whether you walk, bike, drive, or take public transportation to campus, be aware of the risks and plan accordingly for a safe commute.
Byline: Brianne Sandorf has spent five years writing professional, research-based content. Previously, she worked on an award-winning gun safety course and served on a workplace safety committee. Brianne has a degree in English and creative writing from Westminster College.