Safety is protecting people from danger, risk or injury.  The way places both indoors and outdoors are planned, designed, built and maintained can improve safety.  People want to live, work, learn and play in safe places.  Safety is an important built environment indicator.  Law enforcement agencies think about safety in terms of crime.  Traffic engineers measure safety in terms of automobile, cyclist and pedestrian accidents.  Hospitals consider emergency room visits and insurance costs.  Health departments count unintentional injuries.  Safety is important for people and their communities.  Safe communities tend to have higher property values.

photo of school crossing guard

Why is safety important?

Safety is an important quality of life issue.  If people do not feel safe, they are less likely to walk or ride a bike, less likely to go outside to exercise and less likely to be socially involved in their communities.  Unfortunately, when people feel unsafe they tend to avoid doing things that otherwise would contribute to good health.  Safety is a complex mix of social, political and economic factors.  Everyone, regardless of age, ability, income, race or ethnicity, deserves safe and healthy places.            

What about neighborhood safety?

Livable neighborhoods need to be safe to be healthy.  Neighborhood safety is more than crime prevention it includes cleanliness, beautification, traffic and access.  Many cities, towns or counties have services to help neighborhoods such as abandoned car removal, tree trimming, bulk item disposal, neighborhood cleanup events, used oil and household hazardous waste collections. 

Traffic safety is important to people and their communities.  The Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security provides statistics about roadway accidents, injuries and fatalities.  The Tennessee Department of Transportation is another resource for traffic safety information and planning.

What about crime?

Crime prevents communities from achieving their full potential.  Crime stuns economic growth, increases insurance costs and discourages tourism.  Talk with your local police or county sheriff about ways to reduce crime such as starting a neighborhood watch.  Many communities have services to help recover from illegal dumping, graffiti and other non-violent crimes.  Violent crimes ruin public safety.  There is an important connection between law enforcement, crime prevention and economic opportunity.

What about consumer safety?

People want to make informed choices about the products they’re bringing into their homes, and around their kids and pets.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports on potentially hazardous products.

What about child safety?

Preventable injuries are the leading cause of death for children the United States.  Some nine million children are treated for injuries in emergency departments every year.  There are many ways to help keep children safe. 

  • Children should be taught road safety and to wear a helmet when riding their bikes.
  • Kids should be buckled into a car seat in case of a traffic accident.
  • Children should drink water during play and sports. 
  • Mobile phones are distractions that adolescents need to understand can be unsafe. 

Our Healthy Homes Website has lots of ideas to help keep children safe around the yard, nursery or bedroom.  The Safe Kids’ website is a good resource with plenty of safety tips to keep children safe.  The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services investigates allegations of abuse and child neglect.

What about pedestrian safety?

Walking is an important way for people to get around.  The places where people will be walking need to be designed, planned, built and maintained for safe walking.  The Complete Streets design approach can improve safety for walking, bicycling and transit.  More information is available from Smart Growth America’s National Complete Streets Coalition as well as our Walkability webpage.

What about bicycle safety?

Think safety to prevent bicycle-related injuries and deaths.  Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head and brain injuries.  All bicyclists, regardless of age, can help protect themselves by wearing a bicycle helmet.  Bicyclists can wear bright-colored clothing during the day and reflective clothing during the night.  Bikes should have plenty of reflectors.  Bicyclists should consider investing in lights to increase their visibility. Roadways with bike lanes improve safety for bicyclists.  More information is available from The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center as well as our Bikeability webpage.

What about school safety?

Reducing automobile speeds near schools and crossing guards help to make safer conditions safer.  Playgrounds should be free of rusted or broken equipment.  Play surfaces should be softer and shock-absorbing.  Honor roll schools will integrate health, fitness, traffic relief, environmental awareness and safety.  The Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program focuses on the benefits of children walking and biking to school.  It offers annual awards to improve walking and biking conditions around Tennessee schools.

What about site safety?

The places where we live, work, study and play should be safe from physical dangers and pollution.  The location of new developments should be assessed for past industrial uses and nearby environmental emissions.  The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Division of Remediation keeps record of environmentally damaged sites.  Their Brownfields Redevelopment program works to bring potentially contaminated properties into economically beneficial use.

Questions about workplace safety should be directed to the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Hazards in the workplace are studied by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Workplace Safety and Health Topics has an extensive list of useful information. 

How does safety increase economic stability?

The places where we live, work, study and play benefit from economic stability.  Peaceful, safe communities often achieve better economic growth and thus higher property values.  Economically stable communities are often more resilient following natural disasters or emergencies when safety has been threatened.

Government partners

Tennessee Department of Health (TDH)
Program Areas

Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT)
Tennessee Highway Safety Office

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Motor Vehicle Safety

Additional resources

Safe Kids

Smart Growth America
Tag: Safety