How to be Safe When You're Out Walking
Taking a relaxing walk, walking to the store, or even simply walking from your job to the parking lot can be dangerous. Here are some tips to help you avoid dangerous situations while walking. There are a lot of suggestions here. And they won't all pertain to everyone. After reading this, you could get the impression that I'm paranoid. Or that I want you to be paranoid. Nah. I just want you to be aware of these tips so that you can avoid dangerous situations.
Awareness is the Key When Out Walking
Knowing what's going on around you can keep you from becoming a victim.
Jeff Cooper, author of Principles of Personal Defense, developed a color code that defines different levels of awareness. He classified the levels into four colors: white, yellow, orange and red.
White is a completely relaxed state. This level should only be used when you are safe at home with the doors locked.
Yellow is a state of relaxed alertness. You are alert and aware of your surroundings. Your head is up and you are looking around and being observant. You aren't expecting to be attacked, but you are aware that it could happen.
When you leave your home, be sure to mentally "flip the switch" from white to yellow.
And leave your phone in your pocket or purse.
When you are on the phone, you are devoting your attention to the conversation instead of your environment. You can't possibly have 100% awareness if you're staring at your phone. Unless it's an emergency, wait until you are somewhere stationary and safe before texting, phoning or posting.
Use Confident Body Language
Most attackers are looking for someone who appears to be timid, unsure and unaware.
Psychiatrists have found that the right body language (looking alert and walking with confidence) will make attackers think twice about approaching you. Get into the habit of walking confidently. Keep your head up. Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
Dealing with Vehicles While on Your Walk
Avoid walking close to parked vehicles that have people sitting in them, especially if the engine is running. Cross the road if necessary and remain aware of them.
Likewise, if you spot a suspicious person or group of people, don't walk through them or next to them. Instead, cross the street or take a different route.
Face oncoming traffic. You'll be able to see what's coming toward you and vehicles won't be able to approach you undetected.
Dealing With Strangers Who Approach You
If approached by strangers, be suspicious of their motives.
If a driver stops to ask you directions, do NOT get close to their vehicle. You could be pulled inside. If a vehicle pulls up suddenly alongside you, and you don't know the passengers, quickly walk away. Get to safety as soon as you can.
Be aware of strangers entering your personal space. If someone asks for the time or directions or tries to initiate a conversation, you do not have to respond. But if you choose to, keep it brief and move on.
If you become suspicious, or feel uncomfortable, make eye contact and tell them to stay away. Be firm. Move away from them and seek help from Police, Security or someone you trust. Could it be embarrassing if it turns out that you misunderstood the situation? Sure. But embarrassment is infinitely easier to recover from than an assault!
Never accept help from a stranger offering to "walk you home safely" or give you a ride. You have no idea what their intentions are.
When it comes to strangers, trust your instincts. Heed those inner alarms. And listen to the voice in your head when it says that the situation is dangerous. Say No! Make a scene! Be offensive! It could save your life.
Stick With the Familiar
Whenever possible, stick to well lit and populated routes. And take routes that you are familiar with.
If you have to switch to a new route, become familiar with the stores, service stations and other safe places along the route. (But be careful to not let your familiarity with the area lull you back into "white awareness.")
If you get lost, don't stop on the sidewalk to look at a map or your phone. Instead, go into a building, like a store or restaurant, to get your bearings. You'll be less vulnerable to thugs that way.
Don't Walk Alone Whenever Possible
Walk with a friend or coworker. But be sure to remain alert. It's easy to get involved in conversation and forget to be aware of your surroundings.
Do NOT walk alone when you are upset or have been drinking. Your awareness level will be low and you will be a walking target.
Avoid wearing anything on your head that restricts your peripheral vision (like a hood, for example). If it's cold, wear a hat instead.
Don't walk close to bushes or areas with any kind of tall overgrowth. Yes, the odds of a predator hiding in the bushes waiting to trounce on you are probably pretty low. But it does happen.
When you're on the sidewalk, walk near the curb and away from doorways. Be especially cautious when approaching corners. Give a wide berth in case someone is hiding behind the corner of the building. Again, chances are, it's safe. But there's no harm in being cautious!
Walking your dog? While a dog may be a deterrent for thugs, don't depend on the dog alone for protection. Not all thugs care if a dog is involved. You should still be aware of your surroundings and use your awareness skills to avoid danger.
Consider carrying a defensive weapon such as pepper spray, a kubotan or a firearm. Make sure you learn how to effectively and safely use the weapon/s you carry. And remember, a personal defense weapon is useless if it is at the bottom of your purse or stuck in your pocket.
Related Post: "I Think I'm Being Followed! What Should I do?"
The important thing to remember is that awareness is the key to being safer
The more aware you are of your surroundings, the better your chances of avoiding dangerous situations. If you are unaware of your surroundings, you could be considered easy prey by thugs and predators. They like to use the advantage of surprise and most of them are adept at choosing targets who appear to be unaware of what is going on around them.
Be aware of your surroundings. Appear confident. These behaviors can help you avoid becoming a victim while you're out walking.