Getting home safely; there’s an app for that

In my first year of college I lived an hour away by bus, but it was not the bus journey that worried me, but the walk from DCU to the bus stop, a walk that took about fifteen minutes. I often stayed in college until 8 or 9 hanging out and making friends, which meant walking in the dark in a place I had only been living for a few days.

Walking alone at night is something that should be avoided when possible, for example; you should never walk home alone while drunk, if it’s a long distance, or when you are in a particularly unsafe area.

Sometimes these walks can’t be avoided, when it is from the college bar to your apartment or the bus stop to your friends house, a 15 minute walk is sometimes the only option. While no one should live their life in fear, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers we face, and have some helpful options to put your mind at ease.

DCU’s Welfare Officer Domhnaill Harkin explained that simply having some important phone numbers saved can help: “The security guards in DCU have always said if you’re walking back somewhere, ring them if you feel scared, because it’s just better to be safe than sorry”

Another option chosen by so many of us, is to tell our friends to text us when they get home safely, or to stay on the phone while we walk. The issues that arise here are that people forget to text their friends, or feel unsafe walking with an expensive phone out in the open.

The newest way to keep your friend in the know as you walk home is in the form of an app. The app known as Companion is taking the world by storm since its release just a few weeks ago.

A group of five University of Michigan students felt just like the other university students around the world when they came up with a new app that they hope will help alleviate the fear some of us have about walking alone at night. Co-founder Lexie Ernst said: “As a team of college students, we have experienced this problem first hand on our campus. We’ve also noticed an increasing trend (or at least publicity) of students disappearing, being sexually assaulted, or murdered while walking alone late at night.”

Users of this app can select friends to virtually walk them home, the app will send a request to your friend and opens a browser which shows them the route you are walking.

It will give you the option of alerting the police at the touch of a button, which everyone already has access to if they have a phone, but it also allows you to tell your friend you feel nervous, which does two things; it tells your friend to keep a close eye on their phone and also documents areas you feel most nervous, which in turn can help other people avoid these paths if it is a place where many people say they feel uneasy.

While the app is on you can keep the phone in your pocket, which reduces the chances of it getting snatched. If you begin to run, the phone drops or your earphones get yanked out, the app asks if you are okay and if you don’t respond within 15 seconds it alerts your friend.

When I first read about this app, I thought it was genius, which it is, but it should only be used for short necessary walks. My biggest personal fear is students might begin to feel that with this app alone they can skip the taxi or bus and walk for miles because of a mobile app.

“The app is good, but it can’t make up for having someone with you”, Harkin explains, saying that when it comes to a night out you should ”always have your route home planned and never leave anyone behind.”

College is an amazing and exciting time for everyone, but being aware of the potential dangers and ways to prevent them will simply put students’ and parents’ minds at ease.

Megan Roantree

Image: Companion.io

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