Some of us are oblivious to the world around us. We wander through life with no clue how to behave in potentially dangerous situations.
You know the type. They’re the tourists who speak loudly about where they’re staying, the people who have no idea they just walked into a shady dive bar, and the person who doesn’t seem to understand body language.
In truth, a lot goes into navigating the streets, and it isn’t always obvious. While scrolling through the R/askreddit community, I found a thread asking users to share their top street advice.
Heed this advice to improve your street smarts.
Look Like You Know Where You’re Going
Lost people are a target. One Redditor advised that you should always at least look like you know where you’re going to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
This advice is particularly true when traveling.
If you’re lost, don’t open a map in the middle of a sidewalk, looking around hopelessly for any landmark you can discover. Instead, walk until you find a coffee shop, cafe, or restaurant, and examine your map from the safety of your table. You can also ask your server for directions.
One Redditor shared that “maintaining…walking speed will get you out of lots of situations of people harassing you.”
If someone tries to stop you on the street, ignore them. Keep walking, don’t stop. Don’t worry about being rude. It’s better to be rude than to open yourself up to street harassment.
Women take note: sensible footwear is critical.
“Wear your sneakers for the commute, wear your work shoes at work,” advised one user, adding, “It’s not for fashion or comfort, it’s so you can maintain speed or run if you need to.”
Don’t put yourself in a situation where you must run in heels.
Know When They’re Going to Strike
If you find yourself in a verbal altercation, knowing when it might turn physical is beneficial. One user shared a telltale sign.
“If someone arguing with you is standing close to you and they look away from you, you are about to get sucker punched,” they warned.
“People who are about to punch you will also subconsciously switch their stance to have one foot in front of the other and put their weight on the foot behind them,” replied another.
The best bet when you see these warning signs: run.
Lock the Car
Lock your car when you leave it and lock it as soon as you get inside. Car thefts are rampant, and opportunists will take any chance to score a sweet ride.
“My neighbor’s car just got stolen. He leaves it running in the morning as it warms up and goes back to his apartment where he can’t see it directly,” shared one user.
Some users shared that it depends on the neighborhood. Most thieves aren’t trying to steal the whole car but will smash up your windows trying to get any valuables inside. In some areas, taking your valuables and leaving your doors unlocked is better. Unsavories will rummage through your car, but you won’t have to get your windows repaired.
Everyone agreed that locking your car as soon as you get in it is important.
“Two weeks ago, a guy on his bike opened my door and tried to hit me while I was just starting my parked car,” shared one user.
“We had a serial killer in my town who killed a new mother when she went into a shop to get milk. Got in her backseat,” added another.
Don’t Talk To Cops
You have the right to remain silent, so use it. Even innocent people find themselves in trouble because they babbled on uncontrollably while in custody.
“Innocent or not, do NOT talk to cops without an attorney,” advised one user.
“It’s literally the first thing they tell you as part of the Miranda Rights,” replied another. “You have the right to remain silent. Use it.”
If You’re Being Followed
It’s hard to tell if you’re being followed. A savvy driver will make four right turns if they think they have a tail because why would anyone circle a block for no reason?
One user shared that you should never go straight home if you think someone may be following you.
Another shared that the four-right-turn trick saved them from a potentially dangerous road rage incident.
“Someone was tailgating me while my girlfriend was in the car, so she took it upon herself to roll down the window and flip them off,” they began, saying the girlfriend’s actions angered the other driver, who started tailgating them aggressively and following them through the neighborhood.
The user added the aggressive driver “clearly intended to follow me home. I wasn’t about to lead them there, so I just proceeded to take the same 4 turns until they caught on. About 6 turns in, they gave up in disgust and tore out of there. Thank god I wasn’t dense enough to lead them back to the house.”
“Ex-girlfriend was being followed home from her night shift job one night. Onto the interstate, off ramp, then series of neighborhood turns. She pulled into the 24-hour donut shop, parked between 4 police cruisers, and watched the following car drive on,” responded another.
Look with Your Eyes
Turning your head to stare at something is a sure way to draw attention to yourself. Instead, find ways to explore your surroundings without obvious motions.
Users shared that they watch suspect behavior in glass reflections, use their peripheral vision to keep tabs on potentially dangerous strangers, and look to the shadows to see if nefarious people are lurking about in the dark.
Catching someone stalking you before they know you notice can buy you valuable time to escape the situation.
Don’t Run Your Mouth
You don’t always need to say something or have the last word. One user noted that most street fights start because one person said something stupid, offending another.
“Be careful to not just run your mouth around people you don’t know. Real life doesn’t always play out like social media,” they warned.
Others advised that it’s not just talking; even looking at someone the wrong way could lead to aggression.
“If you as much as look at the wrong people the wrong way, you might get jumped or robbed,” said one user.
“Just keep your head down and avoid eye contact. It’s not worth your life trying to prove your the toughest one in the grocery store,” shared another.
Trust Your Instincts
We all have an innate ability to sense danger. With the safety and security modern society offers, we may not use it all the time, but it’s always there, silently nudging us when something doesn’t seem right.
If your gut sends you a tingling feeling, lean into it. Listen to what it’s saying. These messages come from your subconscious, which examined the entirety of a situation far faster than your conscious mind ever could and found something that raised alarms.
If you have a gut feeling that you should avoid something, avoid it. Don’t question your instincts.
Street Smarts Can Be Developed
Navigating unknown city streets can be dangerous, but with a little street smarts, most of us will survive unscathed.
Most people can easily implement many of the tips shared in this thread, even if they have never experienced a potentially dangerous street situation before. These tips can help them avoid it in the future as well.
What would you add to the list of advice for staying street-smart while out and about?
Melanie launched Partners in Fire in 2017 to document her quest for financial independence with a mix of finance, fun, and solving the world’s problems. She’s self educated in personal finance and passionate about fighting systematic problems that prevent others from achieving their own financial goals. She also loves travel, anthropology, gaming and her cats.