By KATHERINE BARTLES
Hitchhiking is a form of transportation that most people do not think of taking when they have somewhere to go, especially since we have other ways of getting around such as taxis, buses and trains.
Although, hitchhiking was said to have died after the 1970s, it seems as though it is making a comeback. Many people have reservations when it comes to hitchhiking because they believe it is unsafe and a little strange, since you are being driven around by a complete stranger. However, according to Wand’rly Magazine, the likelihood of hitchhiking ending up in rape, murder or kidnapping is only 0.94 percent. So why is hitchhiking seen as a bad or potentially dangerous idea?
Because the University of Mary Washington is located in a rather central area, very close to downtown and only a couple minutes away from Central Park, I decided to search the UMW community and find out if there were people who have taken up hitchhiking and get their opinions and experiences.
As I went around campus, not many people had gone hitchhiking before and most people did not seem too fond of the idea of being in a car with a person they hardly knew. Laura Taylor, a freshman at UMW said that when she was in Maine with her grandmother, they picked up a hitchhiker.
“I honestly thought I would get slaughtered,” she laughed, “after he got out of the car I told my grandma to never do that again, even though he was friendly…I don’t think hitchhiking is a bad thing, but I think you need to be cautious. I think this is where a little stereotyping can be effective in protecting yourself.”
It is true that female hitchhikers get picked up more often than male hitchhikers, which is why they need to evaluate their safety, and if they feel uncomfortable being in the car with a certain driver, they can always turn down a ride.
Dahlia Somers, a senior double majoring in English and business, has hitchhiked in the past and said she was not really nervous about it. She said that she had hitchhiked by herself to UMW from her neighborhood, which is around a seven minute drive.
“It was really cool because a retired UMW professor was the one to give [me] a lift,” said Somers. This was not her first time hitchhiking, however.
She told me that she had done it before in Israel on her way to a waterfall on the Red Sea with her cousin and two other girls. “The man went 20-minutes out of his way and said he was happy to do a mitzvah,” she said. Mitzvah is Hebrew for a commandment, or a good deed done from religious duty. “I have a car in the States so I will probably hitchhike again if I’m in another country, taking into account how safe hitchhiking is in that area. It’s always easier and safer to do it with one or two other people. I’m not really nervous about hitchhiking when I’m with someone else. You always need to be cautious and ready to reject a ride if the situation seems unsafe. I haven’t had to do that yet though.”
Many people hitchhike for the experience of meeting new people and listening to their stories. I probably would not hitchhike on my own, but if I needed to and I had friends with me I do not really see the harm in it. I understand why hitchhiking would be scary or seem dangerous, but if you are ever thinking about hitchhiking or even picking up a hitchhiker, follow your instincts and decide whether or not you feel comfortable with that person.