Thinking hitchhiking is a mode of transportation left behind decades ago? Think again. It’s still a viable form of transportation but must be done with safety in mind. It’s important to know the geo-specific laws when you’re hitching a ride, because they can vary state to state and city to city. For some hitchhiking can be felt as dangerous, because unlike a taxi or ride-sharing app, you have no information or traceable data available on the person giving you a lift.
Still, whether you want to tick this off your bucket list or have no other option, here are five ways to hitchhike as safely as possible:
1. Watch out for distracted drivers. Hitchhiking while actually on a road, and especially a highway, is extremely dangerous. Drivers might not be paying attention and can drift onto the shoulder. There’s a reason many hitchhikers stick to the on-ramps. It’s safer and cars are already stopped. With distracted driving on the rise, you need to look out for distracted drivers more than ever—especially if you’re hitchhiking.
2. If possible, do so with a partner. You might not get a choice, but it’s always safer to hitchhike in pairs. Unfortunately, this goes double for women—you’re likelier to get a ride if you’re a woman, but you’re also likelier to put yourself in a compromising situation. In this instance, forget the notion that you should be able to wear whatever you want. Hitchhikers are ultimately advertising themselves as the kind of person and passenger they will be. Hitch a ride with a trusted friend, and if you’re a woman hitchhiking solo it’s a good idea to dress modestly.
3. Make note of the vehicle’s description and license plate. If something goes awry, you’ll need to be able to tell authority clear details of the driver and vehicle. If you have a phone, snap a photo of the license plate before getting in. If possible, send this photo to a trusted friend and let them know that you’re hitchhiking. It’s a strategy you hopefully won’t need, but will be thankful to have if something happens.
4. Negotiate the terms of the ride before getting in. Both you and the driver should agree on how far you’ll be taken, the drop off point, and any bartering (such as you paying a certain amount for gas or driving part of the way). You don’t know how far the driver is going or where they might exit, and don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
5. Trust your gut. Just because someone stops for you doesn’t mean you have to take their ride offer. If something tells you that something isn’t right, trust your instincts. They’re there for a reason. A simple and polite, “No thank you” is all you need to tell the driver. If they get angry, that just reconfirms that your instincts are right. You don’t need to validate to yourself, the driver or anyone else why you choose certain vehicles over others.
Hitchhiking used to be a rite of passage, and for some people, it still holds a romantic kind of draw. Following our advice and using modern technologies to be in constant contact via mobile devices in case of need, the risks are reduced greatly. If you do choose to hitchhike, put safety first.
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