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Is Your College Town Safe? Building a Safer Community for Students

Charlie Fletcher

Is Your College Town Safe? Building a Safer Community for Students

When young adults go away to college, it’s a brand-new and exciting experience for them. It can also be a bit nerve-wracking, at times. For many, it’s their first time living on their own away from friends, family, and the security of familiar communities. While college students and parents alike want to believe that the town their campus is in is safe, the reality is that not all college communities are as secure as they should – or could – be.

Some of the most dangerous college towns, known for high crime rates, include:

  • Lincoln, Nebraska (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
  • Nashville, Tennessee (Vanderbilt University)
  • Boston, Massachusetts (Boston College)
  • Chapel Hill, North Carolina (University of North Carolina)

These campuses and surrounding areas have a higher percentage of violent attacks and assaults, which can be extremely unnerving to students planning on attending.

Thankfully, there are actionable measures students and college officials alike can take to improve safety in college towns. From crime prevention to infrastructure enhancements, it’s possible to create safer spaces for students, faculty, and everyone involved in a college community.

Infrastructure Improvements

College campuses often do well in urban areas because those cities have a lot to provide students. Many college towns are ripe with places to eat, shop, and have a good time. But, because many young adults in these areas are experiencing urban living for the first time, tailored safety measures and infrastructure improvements can make a big difference.

Simple city upgrades can help to reduce crime rates, and utilizing technology is a great way to improve safety. Smart street lights, for example, have been shown to deter crime and improve safety in cities. These lights can be equipped with internet-connected cameras, loudspeakers, and data transmitters. Not only will the lights themselves deter things like assaults and theft, but if a crime does occur, the data collected from the lights will make it much harder for the perpetrator to get away with it.

Smart city technology is perfect for college communities. This kind of technology can help with:

  • Evacuations and warnings
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Sound detection
  • Situational awareness

Most college campuses want their students to take advantage of the surrounding urban area. It’s important for universities to work with cities and local governments to create safe spaces that utilize technology and security to make sure everyone feels comfortable when navigating an urban community, especially for the first time.

Traffic Safety Solutions

College towns are known for having dense pedestrian and cycling traffic. They also often have diverse public transportation options, a booming nightlife scene, and could potentially be part of a city where rush hour traffic causes backups every day. Add young, inexperienced urban drivers into the mix, and more stringent safety regulations become an obvious need.

Let’s start by focusing on the pedestrian issue. Foot traffic is a predominant way of traveling around college campuses. While there are plenty of benefits to that, it can be problematic when a college community is made up of a complex roadway network. Distractions in these networks are a big problem.

Pedestrians might feel like they’re OK to talk on the phone, eat on the run, or simply not pay attention while they’re walking or cycling. It can increase the risk of getting hit by a vehicle or heading out into oncoming traffic. If drivers are distracted, as well, they run the risk of getting into an accident or injuring someone.

Some of the best ways to improve traffic safety in college towns include:

  • Identifying specific danger areas (including campus hubs and high-traffic intersections)
  • Creating larger crosswalks
  • Improving signage
  • Adding physical barriers

As new technologies continue to emerge, safety regulations become even more important. Autonomous vehicles aren’t just an idea of the future anymore — cars with self-driving features are entering the market, and autonomous vehicle safety is paramount.

While there are many benefits to self-driving vehicles, there is currently not enough data to determine how safe they really are. While most of today’s car crashes are due to human error, that might change as more autonomous vehicles hit the road. Busy urban areas like college communities need to have policy frameworks in place to improve safety, especially as self-driving vehicles hit the road.

Keeping Yourself Safe

So, what can you do as a student to stay safe in a college town? First, make sure you know how to appropriately navigate your campus and the surrounding area. Consider the places where you’ll be spending the most time and think of them as your “home base” when you’re at school or within the community.

Get to know the area on your own time, and consider bringing some friends along while you do. Learning about your community together will help to form relationships and will make it easier to familiarize yourself with locations and landmarks you can all enjoy.

It’s also important to get comfortable with public transportation. Being able to hop on a bus, train, or in a taxi quickly can keep you from having to walk back to campus on your own. While public transportation can seem intimidating at first, it’s a fast and easy way to get from one place to another safely.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do, whether you’re hanging out in your dorm or exploring your community, is to pay attention to your surroundings. Be aware of potential threats, which campus security officers are on duty, and who’s around when you’re walking to your car or back to campus. Trust your gut instincts, and be vigilant about protecting yourself no matter where you’re going.

College should be one of the most exciting and eye-opening experiences of your life, but that doesn’t mean safety goes out the window. Keep these ideas in mind to protect yourself and encourage your college town to become a safer, more secure community for students.

SEE ALSO: Emergency Preparedness 101: A College Student’s Ultimate Guide

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