In 2022 I walked across the country from Kansas City to New York City. During the trip I would spend 8 hours a day walking 20ish miles along highways and frequently drivers would stop and ask if I needed a ride to the next town. Given how lonely the walking was, I didn’t ever accept a ride. Mainly because I didn’t know who’s car I was getting into and I didn’t even know if it was legal or not. The idea still baffles me that I knew if it was illegal to hitchhike or not. So is it?
Yes, it is actually illegal to hitchhike in many states and countries. In the United States, it is up to each individual state to decide whether or not it is legal to hitchhike. Many states have laws that make it a misdemeanor, but some states like Oregon and New York have completely banned hitchhiking altogether.
Below I will continue to explain other questions that are commonly asked around hitchhiking and the movement.
What Do The States Say?
There are only a few states in which its illegal to hitchhike on all roads. These include Oregon, New York, and Nevada. In Oregon it is a Class B traffic violation to stand on the side of the road with your arm out attempting to get a ride. In New York, you can’t accept a ride from someone in a car for hire unless it is through an organized service like Uber or Lyft. In Nevada, it is a misdemeanor to hitchhike on any highway except for the interstate.
In states where it is not illegal, you may still face consequences such as being fined or arrested if the police think that your actions are causing a disturbance or danger to others on the road.
What is Hitchhiking?
Have you ever been driving down the road and pass a gentlemen/woman with their arm out and their thumb up?
This is known as hitchhiking, or getting a ride from a stranger in their vehicle. A person will be walking to their destination and be in hope that a caring driver will stop and give them a lift to their next spot.
Some hitchhikers are able to catch a ride for hours, while others are only able to catch a ride for a few miles before getting dropped off at the next exit. But any bit usually helps them in their journey.
Why Do People Hitchhike?
There are various reasons why someone might choose to hitchhike. The most common is due to the lack of funds for transportation or simply not having access to other modes of transportation such as buses or trains.
Others may choose to hitchhike because it is a more eco-friendly form of transportation, while some do it for the adventure and excitement that comes with trusting strangers and relying on their kindness for a ride.
Is It Safe to Hitchhike?
Asking if it’s safe to hitchhike is up to the person you’re talking to. I never personally thought it was safe but if you were to ask my grandfather he would argue that it was a normal activity.
You see, many people argue that hitchhiking is a dangerous activity as you never know who is picking you up. This is true, it is always important to exercise caution and trust your intuition when deciding whether or not to accept a ride from someone.
However, there are steps that can be taken in order to make hitchhiking safer.
- Travel In Pairs: It is always safer to hitchhike with someone else as opposed to being alone. This way if something were to happen, you have another person there to help and support you.
- Trust Your Gut: Before getting into a car, trust your gut feeling about the driver. If they make you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, do not get in their car.
- Bring Protection: Bring along some form of protection such as pepper spray, in case the driver becomes threatening.
Despite these steps, it is ultimately up to the individual and their own personal level of comfort with hitchhiking.
Is It Safe to Pick Up A Hitchhiker?
Personally I wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker if I was with my loved ones, if I was by myself I maybe would but it would depend on the circumstances. Here are some helpful thoughts to have before picking up someone on the side of the road:
- Is the person alone or with others?
- Do they appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol?
- Does their behavior seem odd or suspicious?
- Do you feel safe with them in your vehicle?
Overall, hitchhiking is a controversial topic with many different opinions and personal beliefs. It is important to understand the laws in your state as well as exercise caution if you choose to partake in the activity as either a hitchhiker or driver. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide whether or not they feel comfortable with hitchhiking. Stay safe and trust your gut instincts.