In terms of road safety, taking public transportation is at least 10 times safer than driving. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, urban rail, and bus have about one-thirtieth as many deaths as traveling by private car, for every billion passenger-miles. To put the numbers into perspective, the National Safety Council pegs 2019 American road fatalities at 38,800, the vast majority of them being car occupants and motorcyclists.
However, while public transit is safer in terms of road safety, commuters are at an increased risk of contagious illnesses, petty crime, and harassment. If you’re concerned with these types of threats, here are a few ways you can minimize them:
Tips for Minimizing Health Risks When Commuting
1.) Get anti-microbial hand protectors
A pair of anti-microbial hand protectors, such as those by Ghluv, is a discreet, effective, and sustainable alternative to using disposable gloves when touching potentially contaminated surfaces, including handrails and other fixtures in public transport. Most disposable gloves have to be thrown away after one use to prevent cross-contamination of different surfaces. Anti-microbial hand protectors use antiviral textile technology to actively destroy germs, making this much less of a problem.
2.) Don’t sit or stand next to people who are sick
While you may never be able to eliminate the chances that you might get sick when you take public transportation, you can choose to avoid taking unnecessary risks when you see them. If you see someone who’s sick, try to maintain at least a 6-foot distance away from them.
3.) Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer after you leave public transport
Many illnesses, such as influenza, chickenpox, herpes, and hepatitis, can be transmitted by contact with contaminated surfaces. Make sure to wash your hands as soon as possible after taking public transport to reduce the risk of infection. Also, try to refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with potentially contaminated hands.
4.) Always check seats or handrails before using them
While harmful microbes are invisible to the naked eye, that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to reduce your exposure. If a seat or handrail is visibly dirty, it’s probably packed with more germs than usual and should be avoided altogether.
Tips for Avoiding Crime and Harassment on Public Transport
1.) Do not doze off in public transport
Most criminals prefer to avoid confrontation. This makes sleeping passengers a prime target for pickpockets. Try to stay awake and maintain a presence of mind when using public transit.
2.) Use well-lit stops when possible
If you can choose a better lit bus stop, it is almost certainly safer to do so. Brighter lights allow you to see potential threats and can help deter criminals by increasing the chance a crime in progress would be witnessed.
3.) Keep your valuables close to you
Be mindful of your smartphone, cash, and other valuables when you take public transport. Use your front pockets to at least temporarily store these items when you take the bus or train to make it easier for you to keep track of them. Make sure that you keep your bags in front of you to prevent them from getting tampered with.
4.) Don’t be afraid to make a scene
If someone is harassing or threatening you, and there is no way to leave, making a scene can be an excellent way to bring them some unwanted attention. You might not feel entirely comfortable when you do this, but at least it gives you a chance at avoiding something potentially worse. Try to leave the bus or train ASAP and find a police officer or someone that can help.
5.) Don’t hesitate to switch seats or get off to an earlier stop
If you feel uncomfortable with a person or a group on your bus or train, don’t hesitate to leave at the next stop. Once you get off, you should immediately head for a well-lit public space. If you feel the situation is especially tricky, find a police or security officer to assist you.
In terms of road safety, public transportation for commuting is statistically far safer while also being more environmentally sustainable than taking a private vehicle. The trade-off, however, is an increase in all the risks we take from being in contact with other people. Touch- and air-transmitted diseases can easily be caught in the close, confined space of buses, trains, and transit stations. The risk of crime and harassment will also correspondingly increase each time you’re close to other people.
As more people realize the benefits of taking public transport, these problems may intensify to some extent. By understanding the risks involved and what you can do to mitigate them, you can ensure that your commuting experience will be safer than ever.