This article was first published in DAWN Magazine on 29th May 2016
If you do a quick search on the internet for personal safety concerns during the month of Ramazan you will find that a majority will address rash driving. Yet this month is also known for a high number of criminal incidents. Let’s take a look at how you can keep yourself safe in this month.
Driving in Ramazan:
— Understand your own limitations: drowsiness caused by limited to no sleep (especially during the initial days of fasting) are a significant cause of accidents with drivers falling asleep at the wheel.
For a number of reasons Ramazan calls for being extra vigilant when it comes to your’s and your family’s safety
— Fellow drivers on the streets who display signs of drowsiness are a risk to you too, try and signal them to pull over and rest a bit before proceeding.
— Signs of fatigue that you can easily recognise are: drowsiness, tired eyes, restlessness, boredom, slow reactions, over-steering, poor concentration, yawning, etc.
Tip: keep a hand towel and small bottle of water, wet the cloth and apply to face, hands and behind the neck. It helps the person freshen up quickly.
— When approaching any intersection, slow down and proceed cautiously even if your signal is green. It’s not uncommon for motorists to disregard the signal.
— Planning is key; for any journey add extra time for possible delays, road blocks, etc. As office timings change, the peak traffic hours are extended and start earlier than during normal days (approximately 3pm to 7.30pm).
— Many people who commute to work immediately after Sehri will do so in the dark and may not be accustomed to driving at that hour. Don’t forget to use your headlights especially when commuting on highways and major thoroughfares.
— In case you are unfit to commute due to fatigue, drowsiness or other medical ailments that could be augmented due to fasting then do not drive. If you can’t find someone to drive you then use public transport, even if that means leaving your vehicle behind for you to collect when you are in better state of health.
— Anticipating motorists, cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians moving suddenly or changing lanes is difficult on any given day in heavy traffic. It is a bigger challenge during Ramazan with everyone rushing to get to their final destination before Iftar. Be on the watch out for rash drivers, careless pedestrians, etc.
Tip: During Ramazan you have to use the defensive driving approach. If you must use a cell phone then it should be through hands-free devices only. Avoid altercations of any sort and respect the local laws and culture that are applicable during Ramazan.
Shopping during Ramazan:
— Limit your financial exposure when out:
- Carry one or two credit or debit cards with the lowest possible limits (plan your shopping accordingly).
- Carry small sums of cash and do not display when reaching into your wallet or purse.
- Carry the cash in different pockets, and keep it separate from any cards especially identity documents.
- Use ATMs inside malls or at safe locations.
- Make sure you have all your card details and immediately report any loss or misuse of your card to the bank.
- Do not hand your card to a retailer; if he says he will charge it at some other outlet as he doesn’t have a machine, go with him and have him charge it in your presence.
— Know the difference between acceptable and unacceptable currency notes:
- Notes with pen marks on Quaid’s image are not acceptable.
- Notes with serial numbers defaced or missing are not accepted.
- The flag on 500, 1,000 and 5,000 currency notes will always change colour when titled and viewed at a different angle. If the colour doesn’t change do not accept that note.
- Use a UV light (pen torch size commonly available) when checking larger quantities of notes. Simply shine the UV light on the side of the bundle, if the note glows (light blue) then reject that note as it is counterfeit. When you shop can have a direct impact on your safety:
- Shopping after dark means you will have to contend with poor street lighting on your approach to or from the shopping area. Criminals take advantage of the cover of dark to rob you of your belongings.
- Shop during the day time and at odd hours, such as soon after the shops open or a couple of hour before Iftar.
Where you shop has a bearing on the safety of the people you shop with:
- Crowded market places require greater vigilance over children, especially younger ones who may be mobile but aren’t capable of communicating effectively if they split from you.
- Always identify a spot where everyone must gather in case they get separated.
Online shopping safety:
— Shop from well-known websites that have customer service numbers and even mailing addresses clearly listed on their website.
— Shopping from unknown websites or with limited contact details should raise a red flag. Do some research before placing an order or buy something of small value to test the service before ordering something of a larger value. This enables you to gauge the quality and efficiency of the service.
Shopping scams, counterfeit currency, pickpocketing, carjacking, motorcycle theft, parking scams, are just some of organised crimes that are committed during any festive season as the criminals prey on your carelessness to deprive you of your valuables. Stay safe!