Hitchhiking isn’t safe? Compared to flying it is!

From yesterday’s conversation with a friend:

me: how are you traveling – hitchhiking, bus or plane?

she: Plane. I wish I had the funds to make a roadtrip out of the move. But I don’t. I haven’t hitched long distances in years. I promised my boyfriend I wouldn’t, cause it made him worry

Pity you get molested at airports by TSA with more certainty than when hitchhiking

she: Yeah, I know. The TSA felt me up and confiscated my sunblock.

These days, hitchhiking might expose a person to creeps. Flying commercial is all but guaranteed to provide the same exposure and with fewer legal self-protection rights.

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7 Responses to Hitchhiking isn’t safe? Compared to flying it is!

  1. Don Gwinn says:

    You know, Dubner and Leavitt covered the idea of hitchhiking’s dangers on their Freakonomics Podcast last year, and it was fascinating. Economists have studied the end of hitchhiking; you can trace it to small public panics following one really gruesome and inexplicable kidnapping/murder case in the late 1970’s. Before that, hitchhiking was very common; after, it quickly became extremely uncommon and the conventional wisdom became that it was very dangerous.

    One of the things one of their expert guests pointed out was that he knows that hitchhiking is statistically a very safe activity and that that there’s only a vanishingly small chance that he’d be hurt–indistinguishable from rates of injury or death in your own car or walking along roads, because it’s the normal hazards of driving or riding in cars that hurt people in either case–but he STILL doesn’t hitchhike himself or pick up hitchhikers, because his brain still manages to convince itself that there could possibly be some danger, and it doesn’t seem like there’s a reward that justifies the danger.

    It made me think about picking up hitchhikers; I do see them on occasion, but I don’t pick them up.

  2. Tony Lekas says:

    I’ll have to find that podcast. An interesting and encouraging insight into how good, or at least not evil, the people around us are. I wonder if the risk is as low for an unaccompanied young female as it is for a 6’2″ young male. It is my experience that the female is at a lower risk of getting stuck waiting for a ride. 🙂

    Also an interesting insight into people’s perception of risk.

    I used to hitch hike a lot. The total is probably 10-20,000 miles. It was more comfortable and interesting than riding the hound and preferable even when the price of the bus was not a big problem. I also did a lot of hitch hiking to get around in the City of Chicago. I met a lot of interesting, some boring, and a few weird people and I have a collection of interesting stories. As you get older the value of that is not to be dismissed. My worst experiences were being stuck out without a ride in a rain or snow storm. In the winter I was equipped to spend the night out if need be. This was all back in the ’70s.

    Once I had a car I picked up quite a few hitch hikers. I did make snap judgements of people and I did not pickup everyone. Almost all though. Only one case where I threw someone out of the car. I did stop first. 🙂

    I have not seen anyone hitchhiking in the US in the last few years other than hikers trying to get a ride back to a parking lot up in the White Mountains after hiking a set of trails that did not constitute a loop. Kind of a special case.

    The last hitchhikers I saw in the US were people who lost their licenses because of a DUI conviction. When I was driving in Scotland I picked up a few. Students traveling around. I would like to see more hitch hikers. It is an opportunity to meet people who are different than those I usually associate with. When traveling with my family I would be less likely to pick people up. Both due to lack of space and an unwillingness to take risks with them that I would take myself.

  3. Denise says:

    Yes, I hitchhiked a few times in college. Yes, I’m female. It was the early 90’s. We rode in pairs, and always got into the back of pickups, feeling that we could jump out if something started going awry (back before they made it illegal to ride in the back of a pickup in NY state). I miss the gal that I used to take those rides with. She had a machete that she always hung on the wall of her dorm room. Maybe I felt safer because I was riding with her… but I did have some interesting stories from my college days, whether they were related to hitchhiking, or climbing up abandoned water towers, or other places that weren’t necessarily forbidden, but were off the beaten path… Take the path less traveled, whether it be a single hitch across town, or a trip across the country.

  4. Don Gwinn says:

    I should have linked it the first time. Here’s the Freakonomics episode, called “Where Have All the Hitchhikers Gone?”


  5. Paul Koning says:

    Interesting that all the preceding comments are on the hitchhiking part, and its safety or lack thereof, as opposed to the TSA comment.

  6. Don Gwinn says:

    I don’t think the sentiment “fuck the TSA and the wands they rode in on” is very controversial among this audience.

  7. Wing and a Whim says:

    I picked up hitchhikers a fair bit in Alaska: it’s not uncommon for the kids who work the processing ships to hitch in order to get into and back out of town. Also, there are a few spots that reliably collect tourists (usually soldiers on leave or European hikers) who’ve gotten away from their group, decided to explore a mountain or a pass, and come back to find out that the sun doesn’t move quickly in the far north summer, and the train / busses have long since stopped running for the night. Met a lot of interesting people. Most of hitch singly or in pairs, though I did run into a group of three guys and a gal – only one of them had enough English (and barely that) to try to explain where they needed to go.

    Now that I’m married and in the Lower 48, I don’t pick up hitchhikers any more – because my dear husband freaks out at the thought. I still think he’s silly, but marriage is the art of compromise.

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