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Tuesday 1 February 2022

10 top tips: How to hitchhike as safely as possible


Hitchhiking can be dangerous. Hitchhiking can be fun. 

There are many schools of thought on the wisdom of sticking out your thumb or finger on the side of the road and taking a ride with a complete stranger.

I've hitched for half a century, off and on. I used to do an 1100km round-trip to watch soccer matches when I was a kid. I've only had one bad experience when someone tried to grab my tackle - otherwise nada. 

Nowadays I live somewhere where the state government thinks three buses are day are completely satisfactory, so I hitched a couple of times when my car has been off the road. 

This week, a recent arrival in my region posted on a local Facebook page asking if it was safe to hitch in Tasmania.

The responses ranged from "someone got killed hitching around here" (in the 1980s it turned out), to "it is perfectly safe".

The answer lies somewhere in the middle. 

There are, however, many steps you can take to make sure your hitching experience is as safe as possible. 

For a start, consider where you are hitching. I've hitched in Africa, Australia and Europe but would never hitch in the US (too many lunatics, too many folk with guns). Also make sure hitchhiking is legal. You don't want to be picked up the local cops.

Rural Tasmania is probably a much safer bet.

Here are some key things you can do to make sure you are as safe as possible.

1. Choose somewhere where you can easily be seen, and where drivers can easily pull over to pick you up. 

2. Take a photo of the vehicle and number plate of the person who has stopped for you and quickly post it on your Facebook page (or other social media), or send to a friend via SMS. You can remove it from social media as soon as you have completed your journey. Let the driver know you've texted their licence plate number.

3. Make sure someone you trust knowns where and when you will be hitching so they can call you, or you can call them, to confirm all is well. If you should go missing the police can be quickly alerted.

4. If you choose a spot where people are driving slowly the driver can get a look at you, but more importantly you can get a good look at the driver. Do not be afraid to say "no" if you don't like the look of the driver, or their vehicle. Trust your instincts.

5. Do not accept drinks from open containers, or bottles, and never accept food from a driver. The reasons are obvious. 

6. Try to stay in close proximity to your baggage. If the person who has picked you up demures, then get out of the car. You do not want to be in the front seat if your baggage is in the trunk.

7. If the driver makes you at all nervous, casually throw into the conversation your experience at kickboxing, taekwondo, or karate. That will make any possible assailant think twice.

8. Do not express any extreme views. If you an anti-vaxxer, or violently pro Government, keep your thoughts to yourself. You do not want to do anything to alienate the person giving you a ride. They might hate your views so much that they dump you on the side of a deserted road. 

9. Get dropped - and getting picked up - somewhere in clear sight of other people; a major junction, a service station or a shop is good. Much better than being dropped five miles closer to your destination but in the middle of nowhere.

10. Avoid hitchhiking at night. You are hard to see and a much easier target for anyone with villainous intent.

Hitching can help you meet interest people, save you money and get you from A to B with minimal fuss. If all goes well.   

In summary: Try to hitch with someone else (slower but safer). Dress sensibly. Smile nicely. Be a pleasant companion. Offer to pay some of the petrol costs on a long ride if you can afford it. Don't smoke unless the driver does. Don't flash cash, or wear expensive watches or jewellery.

Good luck!  




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