General Question

Spargett's avatar

What has changed between hitchhiking in the 60's and now?

Asked by Spargett (5356points) February 25th, 2009 from iPhone

People always talk about casually hitchhiking in the 60’s, 70’s, etc. As time went on people did it less. Now-a-days if you were suggest hitchhiking you would be greeted with a deep look of concern with implied craziness.

They’d say it’s not safe, that there’s serial killers and rapists. Same goes for picking someone up. So the question is, what’s changed since then and now?

My thought: The media. I’d love to hear yours.

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30 Answers

kevbo's avatar

… also is the hitchhiker code referenced in “Jay and Silent Strike Back” for real?

AstroChuck's avatar

In the 60s they’d just chop you up with an axe. Nowadays they use a woodchipper.

Blondesjon's avatar

The crazy, serialkiller rapists that I am picking up these days are wearing bell bottom jeans, flower headbands, and…oh wait…there is no difference.

the crazy killer:“normal” ratio is the same the population is just larger…and, yes, definately the media

kheredia's avatar

I think more people were open to picking up hitchhikers in the 60s than they are now. And with good reason, people just seem to be so much crazier now a days. I would never pick someone up.

basp's avatar

I hitchiked up and down the coast and across country back then. If my children ever even thought about doing the same, I would kill them!!!

By the way, my mom was sure I would meet up with a Manson family member or join the moonies.

augustlan's avatar

There have always been serial killers and rapists around. We’re just much more aware of them now (due to the media). Just because it’s no more statistically dangerous now then it was then doesn’t mean we should ignore the danger now that we know about it.

kevbo's avatar

Bob. Silent Bob.

Also, a couple of years ago a lady approached me at a gas station and asked if I could give her a ride. After I had her open her jacket (no weapons) I gave her a lift down the street.

Blondesjon's avatar

I like to ask them if they can fit their entire fist in their mouth…and if they know all the words to the Partridge Family theme.

laureth's avatar

People are just more obsessed with safety nowadays. Back in the day, kids rode on top of cars, hit each other with sticks, fell off of bikes, and sometimes broke bones. Now, lots of parents are afraid to let their kids play outside because it’s “dangerous” and they sit them on the couch with TV or video games. I think the hitchhiking thing is, in part, a manifestation of this idea as well.

Also, times were more innocent then. Yeah, you had the occasional Manson family murder spree, but for the most part, you didn’t have people that grew up playing Grand Theft Auto.

Foolaholic's avatar

Now we have a guide

jbfletcherfan's avatar

Just watch some of the shows on TruTV. That’ll give you an idea of what it’s like out there.

Grisson's avatar

The difference between then and now? The ones who were hitching in the 60’s are the parents that now have kids of hitching age.

I never hitched and thought it was needlessly risky. My approach instead was to buy a cheap car and drive. (Yes, Including across the country).

My brother did hitch, with impunity, as far as I know. I thought my brother was nuts at the time, too. He said he had a knack of knowing when to turn down a ride.

I just recently discouraged my son from hitching. I mean, if you have access to a car, why risk it!?

Cardinal's avatar

Why don’t people p/u hitchhikers now, I’ll answer your question with a line from your question: serial killers and rapists

I do p/u some hitchhikers, BUT I have a .357 positioned in my truck, our of sight, that I can get to very easily.

Cardinal's avatar

Foolaholic: The answer was 42, do you recall the question?

Blondesjon's avatar

@Cardinalwhat is the center of the universe?

sorry Foolaholic i can’t stop myself sometimes

wundayatta's avatar

Interesting question. I guess I think these things go in and out of style. You’d think it would come back as a kind of green thing. In those days there was the belief that we were making a more cooperative, cool society.

Safety has always been a concern. People trained themselves on figuring out who to take a ride from, and who not. Nothing is much different now. I just think it’s a sign of poverty, and it isn’t cool to be a poor high school or college student any more.

It was always more dangerous for girls. Of course, there was the girl with her thumb out, and boyfriend hiding behind the rock trick. On the other hand, when I see a girl hitchhiking, I wonder what’s going on. Is she legit? Does she have the hidden boyfriend? Is she damaged psychologically and doesn’t really care about her safety?

Probably everybody thinks these things, and so they don’t pick up anyone, and if you’re not going to be picked up, why hitchhike?

scula's avatar

I love the idea of hitchhiking but I’ve only done it outside of the US when I’ve been traveling.

I think a big change has been that now, people are more afraid of hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers. I don’t know that it’s any more dangerous.

Foolaholic's avatar


I know one of the possible questions was “How many roads must a man walk down?”

Aethelwine's avatar

I hitchhiked from San Luis Obispo, CA to Las Vegas in the early 90s. The majority (5 out of 6) to pick me up were truckers. They were lonely and wanted someone to talk to. All of them were very kind (and warned me of the freaks out there).

The only freak that I encountered was not a trucker. He tried to get me to stay the evening at his place and take me to my destination in the morning. I would have none of that! I went on and found the next trucker.

Strauss's avatar

the only thing that has changed is public attitude. I did a lot of hitch hiking in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s.

galileogirl's avatar

There was no difference. News outlets were more local and law enforcement agencies did not have the ability (or inclination) to share information, You rarely heard about any hitch hiker related crimes beyond your own community, Even so girls were warned about the dangers, probably not guys though.

I hitch hiked once in my life. My car wasn’t working and I had a 5 block walk up a steep hill to get to class, so I stuck my thumb out, I figured the only thing up there was the university so it would be pretty safe. Well the guy who picked me up was my boss on my campus job and he scolded me for weeks about the dangers of hitch hiking.

SeventhSense's avatar

I remember hitchhiking in the ‘80s as a teeenager and on more than one occasion having to ask the driver to pull over and let me out when I was propositioned by some sick old man. I had a few scares but managed to escape any harm. They were basically harmless old pervs that saw a young guy hitching but realized after that they should have thought twice.

somewhatofftheway's avatar

I’ve made half a dozen or so trips over the last few years, covering about 10,000 miles I guess, mainly in Europe but also west to east across the US. I think there are two things that have made it less common than thirty years ago:

1. As you say, the media. Hitchhiking will always have an element of risk, as indeed does any travel and almost any activity. The media loves stories of violence and murder; essentially, they make the best reality tv. Tell somebody that you are taking up rock climbing or horseriding, and they will not bat an eyelid. I don’t have the stats, but I’d be willing to bet that those activities carry a greater risk of death/injury than thumbing a ride.

2. Young people have more money, and travel (especially airline travel) is far cheaper now. This is simply a practical thing; I guess it’s good that there are more options. Personally, I would guess that many of my hitchhiking trips would have not been much more expensive if I had taken the plane instead. That isn’t why I do it.

For me, hitchhiking is not a means to an end; it is the means in itself. I know of no other way to travel with a destination in mind while keeping your mind open to happy chances or unexpectedly beautiful or interesting parts of a country. Most of all, hitchhiking is the best and perhaps only way to really get to know the people of the country you travel through, their concerns, their lives and their local knowledge.

From my drivers, I’ve learnt the distinctions of French brandy, how Polish labourers in Norwar really live, the lonely life of a US trucker. In my 100 or so rides, I’ve met a diversity of people and gained a wealth of stories I can’t think I would have required any other way.

I’m realistic about the risks – I accept there are some, but I am certain that they are worthwhile. We live in a society whose main fault is to cut groups of people off from another, creating insularity and ultimately fear… thus cutting people further off. Hitchhiking is as good an antitode as any, and I think we are seeing its resurgence as people become more aware of this.

augustlan's avatar

@somewhatofftheway Thanks for your insight. Welcome to Fluther!

fedupwitcaddys's avatar


SeventhSense's avatar

Kerouac is no doubt smiling. :)

bea2345's avatar

Some years ago a Hitchhiker’s handbook was published. I am not sure about the title, but it was about hiking in Europe: places to stay, where camping was allowed, staying away from dangers like 16 lane highways. I particularly remember an injunction: “If somebody offers you a lift and you feel that s/he is in the slightest way creepy, trust your instinct and do not get into the vehicle.” BTW, the book was largely directed at women hikers.

Coloma's avatar

I hitchhiked a few times back in the 70’s, with not issue.

My only scare was an old guy in a Jag that thought he was cool by lighting up a big bowl of weed while we were driving, it was his driving that scared me!...haha

I still pick up ‘kids’ in my river rafting community in the summer, hiking back to their cars along the highway.

Last summer my daughter, age 22 and I took a coastal trip to the Redwoods, picked up a young couple that were members and took them to their hosts house in Eureka Ca.

We had a blast…lots of laughs…toured them through some of the big trees…I am very careful and selective, but, yes, I still give rides from time to time.

Smashley's avatar

Culture and perception. I’ve heard the “back in the (decade)” argument too, and it has never convinced me.

I can’t believe it’s truly more dangerous now than before. Frankly, I feel the information revolution makes it a good deal safer. There are several decent websites offering safety tips and route information, accounts of personal experiences and region specific tips for catching a ride. Better information helps you plan better and set yourself up for sucess better than the wide-eyed kid in the 60’s who’d heard “just stick out your thumb.”

Community websites like make finding places to stay super easy, and can connect you with good people who are willing to help in an emergency. Phones have GPS, google has maps, There’s just so much more information and connection available today, that a person, even hitchhiking alone down a wizened stretch of highway through the middle of the night, is never truly “alone.” Not that I hitchhike at night (are you crazy?)

I’ve hitched in Montana, California and Oregon and never had anything but an awesome, uplifting experience. In the modern age, we’ve lost much of those community structures that we once had. People avoid connecting constantly – the person in the elevator, the broken down car on the interstate, the kid on the street asking for change. Folks tend to keep their noses down and mind their own business. I don’t know if it’s fear or the isolation of modern living or some vast sociological construct I can’t quite fathom, but I do know that every person who has ever given me a ride has had something special about them that restored a bit of my faith in humanity.

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