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Blog: Would you get into a car with a stranger?

A woman hitchhikingHitchhiking – a cheap way to travel, but less popular nowadays, right, and somewhat dangerous? Not so, say some, who believe it’s due for a comeback.

Would you get into a car with a stranger? I wouldn’t.

And if you're driving and see a hitchhiker, would you stop? Again, not me.

But if I thought my attitude towards hitchhiking was shared by more or less everyone, I thought wrong.

Following conversations with friends and colleagues, it seems many people have either hitchhiked themselves, picked up hitchhikers, and would do so again.

Well, perhaps my reservations stem from watching too much Criminal Minds and Law and Order.

Gender split

But further questioning of my friends and colleagues - admittedly, more anecdotal than scientific research - revealed a gender split.

Women are less comfortable with hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers. And nor would their partners encourage them to do so.

Shelly Davies, a HR worker, at Confused.com says: “With the world as mad as it is today, I would not let a stranger in my car, let alone jump in a stranger’s car.

She adds: “I have seen a few people with their thumbs out but I panic, speed up and drive past!”

While journalist Kirstie McCrum says: “I used to see it a lot in Scotland between St Andrews and Dundee, mainly students.

“I wouldn't pick someone up, but I always feel guilty.

“But when I told my boyfriend this and he made me promise I never would pick up a hitchhiker, for safety reasons.”

Resurgence in popularity

But Simon Calder, senior travel editor of the Independent, and author of the Hitch-hiker's Manual: Britain, published in 1979, says hitchhiking is not only safe, it’s due for a comeback.

"I think it will come back in popularity.

"Hitchhiking’s heyday was between 1965 and 1975. That was the time when people had aspirations to travel but lacked the money to do so.

"So hitchhiking was the obvious solution. And a rapidly expanding population of drivers who were happy to give lifts, meant that it really took off.

Danger perception ‘unwarranted’

"There is an unwarranted perception that hitchhiking has got more dangerous but I’m living proof that it’s very safe."

Calder says hitchhiking dropped off as Brits got wealthier.

"Increasingly, people were able to afford their own cars, or could afford to travel by bus and train."

And Calder says he does still hitchhike if he needs to get somewhere, and will always stop for hitchhikers he sees when out driving.

He’s not the only one. Journalist Nick Machin says:  "I used to pick people up when I lived in Lincolnshire and was driving to and from work."

Nick adds: "I can't ever remember seeing a woman hitching though.

"I would tend to pick people up who looked 'safe' and mainly those with a rucksack or something like that, who looked like they needed to get to somewhere far away.

"I have hitched myself a couple of times in Lincolnshire when I had missed my bus and I needed to get into town, but not long-distance.”

Motorists unwilling to give lifts

Gareth Kloet, aged 42, head of car insurance at Confused.com, says while hitchhiking may be less visible than in the past, it is still a common sight in more rural areas.

He adds: “When I was a student doing my A-Levels in Swansea, south Wales, I lived in a village called Bishopston which was about seven or eight miles away.

"If I missed my bus I could actually beat it home by hitching. I did it so often I even started getting regular lifts from people who had seen me doing it for months."

But Kloet, who works in Cardiff city centre, says hitchhiking in a big city in 2012 is much harder.

"A couple of months ago I tried hitchhiking as I’d missed the bus home and the next one wasn’t for 30 minutes.

"I started walking but as I live about five miles away and was on the main road out of town - so lots of passing traffic to potentially help me - I tried hitching.

"But I didn’t get a lift. Sadly things have changed since the time I was 17."

What do you think?

Would you get into a car with a stranger? And if you're driving and see a hitchhiker, would you stop?

We want to hear from you! Share your hitchhiking thoughts and tales with us on the message board below.




Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick reports on all things personal finance at Confused.com. She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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