Are you returning for your senior year at University of Albany, Syracuse University or another college? Are you the parent of a young man or woman who will be a freshman this fall? If so, you should take the time to think about the risk of serious injuries and illnesses that students face on campus.
To help you get started, we have compiled a number of college safety tips from many different sources, including articles U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
1. Learn about the school’s safety culture.
If you are a student or a parent who is helping your child move into school, you should learn more about the safety measures that the school takes in order to keep its students safe.
Does the school promote a safe campus culture? Does the administration encourage students and parents to speak up when they have concerns about safety? Does the school have a system in place that allows it to promptly communicate with students and parents in the event of an emergency?
U.S. News & World Report suggests that parents and students look into whether the college has a campus police force or relies on a city or county law enforcement agency to handle accidents and other emergency situations. Additionally, students and parents should ask:
- Who investigates sexual assault and harassment allegations, and what kind of training do those investigators have?
- Does the college have a way of protecting students who live off campus?
- Is there a reliable transportation service that students can use, and if so, what is the service’s safety record?
- Does the school have a problem with drug and alcohol use on campus?
2. Avoid walking on campus alone at night.
If you are a student, you need to understand that you are not to blame if you become the victim of a sexual assault or other violent act on campus. Often, the college or university may be at fault due to its failure to provide adequate security. The school’s negligence may serve as the basis for a premises liability claim.
With that said, students can and should take certain measures to avoid becoming victims of crime, including never walking alone on campus at night. Students often become extremely comfortable on campus and assume that they are safe. However, even if a student is merely walking from the dorm to the library, the student should always use the buddy system.
3. Use common sense safety measures if you live off campus.
Students who live off campus may not realize that they face the risk of common crimes. However, students can take many steps to better protect themselves.
For instance, if you are a student who lives off campus, you should always keep your doors and windows locked, and you should be careful about walking home – especially at night. You should also make sure that the walkway to your front door is well lit. If not, it raises your risk of becoming the victim of a slip and fall or a violent crime.
If a student suffers injury at or near the student’s residence, regardless of whether it is owned by the university or by a private landlord, the student may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit. Property owners have a duty to prevent unreasonable risks, and that duty can include installing safety lights or functioning doors and window locks.
4. Understand the risks of alcohol use and abuse and avoid illegal substances.
Alcohol use serves as a major cause of college student injury. In particular, the highly dangerous act of “binge drinking” accounts for about 90 percent of alcohol consumption by people under the legal drinking age of 21 in New York and across the country, according to the CDC.
Binge drinking refers to consuming an excessive amount of alcohol over a short period of time, or roughly 4-5 drinks over a two-hour span, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The CDC states that binge drinking “increases your chances for risky sexual behavior, unintended pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, car crashes, violence, and alcohol poisoning.”
If you or your child suffers injuries in a car accident caused by an impaired driver, you should speak with a lawyer immediately in order to determine your legal rights and options.
5. Know the dangers of hazing.
Hazing has been linked to fraternities and sororities at colleges and universities across the country and identified as a factor in a number of student injuries and deaths. According to HazingPrevention.org, the term refers to “any action taken or any situation created intentionally that causes embarrassment, harassment, or ridicule and risks emotional and/or physical harm to members of a group or team, whether new or not, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.”
Many schools such as Syracuse University have established anti-hazing policies. Additionally, New York makes hazing a punishable offense. The law defines hazing as an act in which a person, “in the course of another person’s initiation into or affiliation with any organization . . . intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct, which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or third party.”
If you are a student who suffered injuries in a hazing incident, or if you are the parent of a child who was harmed by hazing, you should discuss your legal options with a personal injury lawyer. The school, fraternity and/or club may be held liable under a theory of negligence.
Get Help from an Experienced New York Personal Injury Lawyer
When students go to college in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York, they often encounter situations that they would not typically face at home. Many of these situations involve safety risks that they might not know how to navigate. In the event that a tragic accident or injury occurs to you or a loved one at college, a personal injury attorney in New York can discuss your legal options with you. Contact Powers & Santola, LLP today.