Is Hitchhiking Dangerous In The US?

Asking for free rides from drivers on the roads is a common tradition in the United States. Since the 1900s, hitchhiking has always been practiced by many travelers. Over the years, it has declined since hitchhiking has been portrayed as a highly dangerous activity.

The media has painted hitchhiking the picture of a risky business, dangerous practice, welcoming strangers into your life, picking criminals up, stepping into a criminal’s vehicle, or making yourself a victim of a circumstance you could avoid. But is it?

Here’s if hitchhiking is dangerous

Hitchhiking is not as dangerous as people say, although it is somewhat risky. For starters, you are putting yourself at the mercy of the person who picks you up. This person could be anyone, and you cannot know if they are safe or not. That said, hitchhiking can be dangerous if you are not careful.


Is hitchhiking still a viable option for traveling?

Hitchhiking is still a viable method of transportation and a fantastic way to meet new people. But you should always be on the lookout for danger because you never know if the person you’re meeting is trustworthy.

Generally, the rate at which the tradition was practiced over the past years has not been the same way it is being received today.

Hitchhiking started in the 20th century and was a normal practice. Any little help was a patriotic duty, and giving lifts to the youthful battalion was one of the ways.

Hitchhiking was a fun way to move to different places conveniently since the conversations were enjoyable.

It was not only seen as a way of showing love but also a way to help prevent more emissions.

The media started condemning hitchhiking in 1974. Police began the crackdown on those practicing it on roads by warning them to stop.

The surge has continued into the 21st century since people don’t need to do it.

A study shows that the increase in the number of vehicles per household has led to more decline in the hitchhiking tradition.

Although the practice is becoming rarer, it is a great way to travel.

If you politely approach drivers and disclose your intentions openly, they can accept you to travel with them.

Road travel is not just one method – the use of sea, rail and air transport will also apply.

See related: “Road trip” In Different Languages – Easy List & Explanation

Dangers of hitchhiking statistics

Criminal cases have been reported over the years involving hitchhiking.

Such crimes that have been reported to the police where the hitchhiker is mainly the victim or perpetrator include; theft, robbery, assault, kidnap, rape, child molestation, and indecent exposure.

Interstate murder cases since 1979 are 500. The chances of dying from hitchhiking are minimal.

Although it is outdated, in 1974, California Highway Patrol compiled a study on crimes and accidents associated with hitchhiking.

The study period was between May and October 1973. These were their findings.

Out of all cases reported during the study period, 0.26% and 0.63% represented hitchhiking accidents and crimes. 71.7% of all major crime victims were hitchhikers, whereas the other party (28.3%) were the perpetrators.

The average age of the victims was 21 years. Nineteen years were female, while 22 years were male.

All feminine hitchhikers summed up between 9% and 12%. The likelihood of females falling victim than males was 7 to 10 times. 80% of sex-related crimes were against females.

Reports of sex crimes where the hitchhiker was the perpetrator were very few.95% of all crimes and accidents reported had the driver as another party in the cases.

Female drivers that picked hitchhikers averaged between 9% and 12%.

Perpetrators that victimized hitchhikers averaged 28 years.

Is hitchhiking illegal in the US

The practice is not a crime in the United States, as no law condemns hitchhiking. The law says, “No person shall stand on a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride.”

It may seem illegal but what it means is that you cannot request a ride while stopping on the highway, intersection, or within passageways of motor vehicles.

You may easily cause an accident when trying to get lifts in the middle of a busy road, which endangers the life of other motorists.

Use sidewalks, shoulders, and sides of the roads as they are excluded from roadways.

Nevertheless, hitchhiking is prohibited in states such as Utah, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and New York.

Even if police find you stopping on a highway to pick up a passager on an undesignated road or stopping a moving vehicle, you may not necessarily be arrested. They will either issue you a warning or a fine.

Police may stop you even if you hitchhike in the states where it is allowed. Hitchhikers get questioned every time by police as they have ignorance.

What states is hitchhiking illegal?

In most states, hitchhiking is legal, except for six states. Hitchhiking in the following states is illegal; you risk getting into trouble if you do.

  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

Although 44 of the 50 states allow hitchhiking, it’s important to be mindful of the rules in each state to avoid getting into trouble with the authorities.

9 tips to hitchhike safely

There are ethical issues you need to observe that will grant you a successful trip. Remember that you expose yourself to strangers and want everything to go as smoothly as expected. Here are some of these tips to hitchhike safely.

Be Neat and Presentable

Nobody is willing to pull over and accept a shoddy and unkempt passenger. Your first impression matters, and one may easily judge you based on your looks.

Therefore, having a decent dressing that makes the driver give you your attention.

Have Confidence

Using facial expressions to convince drivers of lifts is essential. Smile to everyone you see on the road.

Eye contact is also crucial. It communicates something to them.

Do not be nervous, as many people will doubt your intentions. Ask them with politeness.

Find a Good Spot

Not all places you will find are great for stopping vehicles.

The best spots include interstates on ramps, intersections with stoplights, gas stations, and stop signs. You will raise your chances of getting a vehicle stopped.

It will help if you avoid government facilities, correction centers, or highly crime-prone areas. Public transport vehicles are not favorable.

The best motor vehicle for the tradition is private vehicles, motorcycles, and transit semi-trucks.

Involve in Conversations

Strangers accepting hitchhikers in their vehicles can result from the boredom attached to the long journeys.

Making conversations with them is one way to keep their travel enjoyable. They can share some of their experiences and give good views from different perspectives.

A great conversation can earn you gifts or food during the journey; who knows?

Be Wise When Choosing Rides

Not all people that will be stopping are good. They could be criminals transporting something illegal.

If you feel uncomfortable with that ride, thank them and find a polite way to refuse their ride.

This way, you lower your chances of being a victim.

Prepare in Advance

Treat hitchhiking like a normal bus journey or planned trip.

Carry essentials for the journey like personal effects, food, water, medicine, and warm clothes in your bag.

You should also remember to pack a camera, chargers, extra mobile phone batteries, and headsets to listen to music.

Be Smart

Use your common sense during the journey. Do’s and don’ts still apply like on a regular trip.

Always wear a seatbelt as a safety precaution. Stay away from the main roadway, as you will be breaking the law.

Hitchhiking at night is not ideal. Not only is it difficult for drivers to spot you in the dark, but that is the time when most crimes occur.

The driver may be reckless. In case the vehicle is not driven carefully, stay chill. Don’t be rude. Instead, ask to be left at the nearest stop and abort their ride.

Go With a Friend

Hitchhiking alone for the first time can be scary. You feel bothered when unsure of what will happen on your trip.

Having a friend with experience will be a good idea since you will have an assurance of safety.

Be In Control of Yourself

People will take advantage of weak and naive hitchhikers as they are easy targets for perpetrators.

Before boarding, take a picture of the back of the car and share it with a friend.

Find some time and call them, informing them of your location and that you have sent them a picture of the car so the driver can hear.

Keep unpleasant topics out of your conversation with the driver. Tell them that you are only interested in your destination.

Have your valuables near your body so you can escape with them easily. Evade keeping your bag in the trunk because they can easily drive away with your items.


Hitchhiking is an interesting way to travel. A lot of people still practice even though the tradition is fading away. Many people also own vehicles to travel from one area to another any time they want. However, hitchhiking can be a great hobby if you consider the right safety measures.