Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, May 25th, 2014

Pick any means of transport and look back over the past couple of years and you’ll find some horror stories. Accidents, road rage, human error have all contributed to them. So, how exactly does one go about commuting safely in our environment?

Journey management is the solution.

What is journey management? Does one need to think about every trip to the milk shop, the office, school or even to the park and prepare a plan?

To be honest, that’s exactly what ends up happening. Think about it. You’re asked to buy milk and eggs.

Where do you buy the milk? If you’re at work you may buy it from a store on the way home. Which particular store depends on how you are getting there, on foot, on motorcycle or car? When deciding, you’ve actually thought about parking space. If you’re on a motorcycle you may buy it from the shop closest to your place because the risk of the plastic bag ripping and the milk spilling increases with the distance you need to travel.

Think about air travel and the thought process you go through before you even undertake a journey. You’ve pretty much decided on the airline, the flight time, the most convenient airport, etc.

Commuting via any means is not always safe; know what you need to make it back home
So while the term Journey Management may sound outlandish it is exactly what you do every time you need to commute.

Key elements for journey management

• Before leaving

• While commuting

• Once arrived

Before leaving:

Your selection of transport will determine the set of dos and don’ts that must be followed every time:

On the road

When using a car or motorbike, think about the following:

• Do you have a valid license to drive? (if you’re stopped by the authorities, you will be penalised if the license has expired)

• Is the vehicle in operable condition?

— Do the brakes work?

— Is the safety equipment functioning?

— Is the spare wheel properly inflated?

— Are the battery and radiator fluids topped up (especially in hot weather)?

— Fuel tank should never be less than half. (unplanned journeys, emergencies or even unannounced protests can cause fuel supply shortages)

— Windscreen wipers must be functional

— Tow chain should be available (especially in older vehicles that may be prone to breakdowns)

— Is the vehicle insured?

— Is there sufficient and secure parking at your destination? (knowledge of this ahead of time helps you decide on whether you prefer to use your own vehicle or public transport)

— What is the purpose of the journey, is it to transport people, things or both?

During the journey

Good habits during the journey are what ensure that you arrive at your destination safe and secure with all your belongings.

Road travel in private transport (car, motorcycle or cycle)

• Traffic rules: there are no two ways about it, follow them

• If heading to a regular destination, vary routes and timings

• Do not pick up strangers/hitchhikers even if they’re in uniform

• Use safety equipment (seatbelts, helmets, car seats for children)

• Tune in to traffic updates on the radio

• Maximise travel along well-lit roads after dark

• Do not use the mobile while driving/riding

• If cycling after dark ensure that a High Visibility (Hi-Viz / Fluorescent jacket) is used

• Use the mirrors to keep an eye around you

• Keep the windows rolled up (if the AC is not on, leave a little gap for ventilation especially at night)

• Lock the doors as soon as you are in the vehicle; unlock only when disembarking

• Child locks should be enabled when travelling with kids

• Window locks must also be controlled when accompanied by kids

• If subjected to road rage, do not retaliate

• If approached by an armed bandit, do not resist and instead try to comply with their instructions. The job is to get out alive and unharmed.

• Always inform someone if you are heading out alone and give them an expected time of arrival. (The understanding being that if you don’t arrive on time they should check in with you. This is particularly important for lone female drivers and everyone after dark)

One aspect of road travel that especially worries people is what they should do if they are being tailed. If you are a female driving alone then this could be especially unnerving. Don’t panic and do the following:

• Do not go straight to your actual destination (home or work)

• Find an alternate location such as a mall, hospital, petrol pump, essentially some place crowded

• Note the vehicle number (you may need to notify the authorities)

Normally if you do the above, the individual following you will move away. If they don’t, then do the following:

• Call for backup support (ask a family member, friend whomever is closest to come get you)

• Point out the vehicle/person to the shopkeeper, petrol pump attendant

• Do not hesitate to call the police or bring it to the attention of the nearest law enforcement person

• When backup has arrived leave together but do not confront the person and be sure you’re not followed to your final destination.

Road travel in public transport

In addition to measures cited for road travel in personal transportation keep the following in mind:

• Know that the quickest means may not always be the most secure. (Take a taxi and not a rickshaw at night for long distances)

• Split your cash and ID documents in your pockets; preferably in a front pant pocket or inside the coat pocket

• Ladies wearing jewellery should aim to cover it with a shawl. Don’t attract attention to yourself

• Bus travellers should always aim to secure a position inside the bus; hanging from the sideboard or sitting on the rooftop must be avoided even if it takes longer to reach the destination

• Know the average fare for the destination

• Be mindful of walking distances from the public transport stop to your destination. Wherever possible aim to avoid long walks after dark

• If undertaking long distance travel, inform a family member of the route and vehicle number

As with private transport, females travelling alone in public transport must ensure to do the following:

• As soon as you get in ask the driver for the vehicle number and immediately text or call it in to a family member or friend.

• Inform the family member or friend when you begin your journey and expected time of arrival

Speaking this out loud will generally warn the driver of the vehicle that someone is expecting you and that they have the vehicle number as well.

Once on your way if you sense that the driver is being difficult then draw attention to yourself.

• Wave out, shout, scream whatever it takes to draw attention.

Whether you are a man, woman, child — If you feel that someone is following you then do exactly as you would if you were driving: change directions and head to some public space with a number of people and wait for help to come.

Arriving at the destination

You’re relaxed, exhausted, rushed, depending on how you’ve made it to your destination. It is at this time that people let their guard down and that’s when things that could ruin a journey mostly occur. Make sure you do the following:

• If you are entering a home/apartment that has a locked gate then make sure you call ahead and have someone waiting for you to quickly open and close the gate

• Do not linger at your entrance searching for keys or knocking for someone to come

• Check that you have all your belongings (small pouches, bags, wallets, suitcases)

• Place the items near you or ensure someone with you keeps an eye on them

• Secure your vehicle in a proper parking space

— A well lit area close to your destination

— If you have luggage with you, make sure you drop it at your doorstep with someone and then go park

— If you’re a female driving late night then ask a male family member or even neighbour to park your vehicle if it’s to be done at a distance from your home

• Remember always to keep an eye out for suspicious persons lurking around and if you spot someone:

— Don’t stop at your door

— Call the people who are inside to alert them

— Circle around the block so that someone is now waiting for you

It’s important to remember that during any stage of your journey if you need assistance it will take time to get to you. Therefore at all times be prepared to manage any unfortunate situation and limit your troubles. In the absence of organised support knowing what to do when and how is the key. Your best weapon is being mentally aware of your surroundings and knowing what to do. Safe travels! n

Norbert Almeida is a security advisor.


Twitter: @norbalm


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