The United States is generally a safe country. However, crime does exist; exercising a little caution will go a long way to keeping you safe during your exchange year. With that in mind, please read and follow the advice below.
General Safety Tips
- Be careful when traveling alone at night. Avoid empty streets, subway stops, and bus stops. It’s also important to always know where you’re going.
- Walk in a confident and purposeful manner.
- Do not display large amounts of money or other valuable possessions in public.
- Do not leave valuables unattended.
- Be especially careful in railway and bus stations. These are often crowded and may attract pickpockets.
- Trust your instincts. Always err on the side of caution.
- In busy cities, beware of potential scams, such as people bumping into you. This could be a way to distract you while your wallet is being stolen.
If you are interested in learning more about how to be safe while in the U.S., check out the National Crime Prevention Council.
Motorists in the U.S. are not always accustomed to sharing the road with bikes, so it is very important that you are cautious and alert when riding a bike. To ensure you stay safe while riding a bike, please read and follow this advice:
- In the U.S., bicyclists are considered vehicle operators and are required to follow and obey traffic laws, including stop signs and right-of-way rules.
- Always wear a helmet, even for short trips.
- Wear brightly colored clothing.
- Install reflectors and lights on the front and back of the bicycle, and always use lights at night.
- Avoid riding your bike at night if at all possible.
- Ride with the flow of traffic.
- Never ride on the highway or where there is not a bike lane or wide shoulder.
- Use hand signals so others can anticipate your actions.
- Check your tires, brakes, and gears regularly.
Motor Vehicle Safety
Every year, thousands of people are seriously injured or killed in road accidents in the U.S. Keep safe by following these guidelines:
- Unless you are enrolled in a driver’s education course (and then only during class hours), High School USA students are prohibited from driving while on program.
- Whenever in a car, wear your seat belt at all times. It can save your life; it is also the law in many states.
- Visit your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles website to learn about U.S. road signs.
- Never ride in a vehicle whose driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The injury, damage, and legal consequences can be severe. The legal limit for alcohol is very low; even one or two drinks could impair someone’s ability to drive.
In the U.S., many families have guns at home. Guns are dangerous and can easily injure or kill you. In order to stay safe, follow these guidelines:
- Do not touch a gun without the permission from your host parents.
- Never touch a gun when the adult is not present with you in the same room, even if you have permission.
- Take a gun safety course if you are interested in joining your family in use.
- Never fool around or play with guns.
- Never point a gun at someone; always point the barrel away from others.
- Use ear and eye protection.
- Some states in the U.S. have what are called “Stand Your Ground” laws. This means that in those states, a homeowner or even a person walking on the street has a right to defend themselves (through the use of guns or other means) against someone whom he or she thinks poses a meaningful danger. As a result, you should never go onto someone’s property without explicit permission.