Whether you are a high school teacher or a parent, you know how much you want to keep students safe when they head off to college. Up until now, it has been easier to monitor their safety than it will be when they head off to live on or near college campuses.

Many of us have taken what is apparently ill-founded comfort in the idea that Uber, Lyft and similar ride services offer a safe transportation option for students. As the author of this article, I can attest to the fact that I have felt good when my college-age daughter has called me at night to say, “Don’t worry, I’m going to get an Uber.” But as I write this article, Uber has just released a safety study (reported on ABC News and elsewhere) that reports that during 2017 and 2018, 3,045 sexual assaults happened in Uber vehicles, during a total of 1.3 billion trips. Interestingly, 45% of the individuals accused of committing sexual assaults were Uber riders, not drivers. The report also notes that sometimes Uber riders attacked each other. Of those 3,045 assaults, 464 were reported as rapes.

I suppose it is reassuring to remember that those statistics mean that sexual assault happens on only about one-tenth of one percent of all Uber rides. Also, we should compare those statistics against the number of sexual assaults that happen in other places. Is a student more (or less) likely to be assaulted in a ride-sharing vehicle or on a college campus, while taking public transportation, while in a dormitory, or elsewhere? I have not been able to come up with data that answer questions like those. But we have to remember that students (and everyone else) are never 100% immune from attack, no matter where they are.

Basic Student Safety Protocols

Most colleges and universities give informational sessions about safety to students as soon as they arrive on campus. But to increase the odds that your students and children will be safe once they start college life, it is a good idea to review some safety strategies with them.

Here is a basic list, adapted from “Top 10 Safety Tips for College Students,” a post that Elizabeth Hoyt wrote for the Student Life section of FastWeb.com:

  • Always carry emergency contacts or have them on your phone
  • Always carry some emergency cash so you can take a cab if need be
  • Avoid becoming inebriated
  • Consider carrying pepper spray, a whistle, or taking a self-defense course
  • Don’t let technology, like your phone, make you unaware of your surroundings
  • Get to know your campus well so you can find your way around
  • Locate and become familiar with the emergency system kiosks on your campus
  • Never stay at a party alone after your friend or friends leave
  • Never walk alone at night
  • Use your residence’s locks, especially when you are alone or asleep

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