“I hitchhiked my way to college today!”
“Let’s hitchhike to Uttrakhand this summer break!”
“Hitchhiking is so much fun. I can do it everyday!”
Well, it should be familiar as Hitchhiking is becoming quite a popular trend among youth today.
Now let us first understand, what exactly is Hitchhiking?
Hitchhiking (also known as thumbing or hitching, autostop) is a means of transportation that is gained by asking people, usually strangers, for a ride in their automobile or other road vehicle. A ride is usually, but not always free.
The hitchhikers’ methods of signalling to drivers, asking for the ride, differ around the world. Many hitchhikers use various hand signals. In India, the most popular are may simply make a physical gesture with hand or display a written sign. In Urban India, North America, United Kingdom and most of Europe, the gesture involves extending the hitchhiker’s arm toward the road and sticking the thumb of their outstretched hand upward with the hand closed.
So that’s what Hitchhiking is!
But how safe is it?
Whether getting a lift to the corner shop, to your college or even it if for covering the four corners of the world, there is a method to the madness of hitchhiking. The safety, sure is a concern.
Very little data is available regarding the safety of hitchhiking. Compiling good safety data requires counting hitchhikers, counting rides, and counting problems: a difficult task.
Two prominent studies on the topic include a 1974 California Highway Patrol study and a 1989 German federal police study. The California study found that hitchhikers were not unreasonably likely to be victims of crime. The German study concluded that the actual risk is much lower than the publicly perceived risk, and the authors did not advise against hitchhiking in general. They found that in some cases there were verbal disputes and inappropriate comments, but physical attacks were very rare. And similar is the case with Indian Hitchhining trend too.
However, we bring you a few safety pointers to keep in mind and practice religiously, whenever you decide to hitchhike, even for the shortest of the distance.
- Hitchhike at petrol pumps is safer instead of signalling at the roadside.
- If you do not like the face of the one you are hitchhiking with, drop the idea. Trust your gut feeling.
- Refusing rides from impaired drivers.
- Hitchhike during broad daylight hours only.
- Hitchhike in the area where you are familiar with the roads.
- Scan your ID (and passport, if travelling internationally and hitchhiking) and email it to yourself. Keep the originals handy in your pockets.
- Pack some pepper spray, in case you encounter a shady character, on or off the road.
- If You Are hitchhiking for a Long trip, write down your destination in bold words and show it to people you are hitchhiking with. It shows people that you’re literate, and you’re on a planned trip.
- Hitchhiking at a familiar and crowded spot is always best decision to make.
- Only signal the cars passing at less than 50 mph (80km/hr)
- Make an eye contact with the drivers and have a confident look in the eyes.
- Hitchhike from a visible and easily manageable pull-over and pick-up area
- Present yourself well. Look like you know where you are going, and what you are doing. Have a clean, well-kept appearance.
Many hitchhikers are not picked up for drivers doubt their own security. Here are some reasons why:
- Young lads wearing too much of denim, are less likely to get picked up, owing to their rugged appearance.
- Rough looking male hitchers are looked down upon.
- Wearing sunglasses while hitchhiking is not a good idea because it obscures eye contact
- Couples tend to wait longer than lone women, however, if you are hitchhiking with your partner, make it clear from the start that you’re in a relationship, or else the driver might go after the woman in the pair; be smart and protective.
- Rain will diminish your chances of getting picked up, especially if you’re totally drenched.
Happy hitchhiking to you.
Be informed, be sensible, be safe!