AA/Populus

Hitchhikers swap their thumb for a mouse

9 June 2009

Three-quarters of AA/Populus panel members would never consider stopping and offering a hitchhiker a lift, according to a new poll of almost 15,000 members, published to coincide with national liftshare day .

Three times more men than women would stop for a hitchhiker – almost one quarter of men (23%) said they would offer a lift but only 7% of women.

The likelihood of a panellist stopping to offer a lift increased with age:

  • One in ten 18-24 yr olds (9%) and 25- 35 yr olds (11%) would stop
  • One in five from the 45-65 plus age group would stop (21%)

It could be a long wait

The British hitchhiker may have a long wait should the credit crunch and 'staycationing' in the UK increase the number of people trying old fashioned hitch hiking as a means of getting around.

Those planning a hitching trip in the UK have the best chance of getting a ride in Scotland (21%), the south west (21%) and Wales (20%).

Hitchhikers are most likely to be left out in the cold in the north west and north east (14%).

AA comment

Commenting, Edmund King, AA president and former hitchhiker said; "It is no great surprise that with concerns about personal safety drummed into us, most people are reluctant to stop for hitchhikers. However, some who may be old enough to remember when hitching was more common practice, will have enjoyed the egalitarian pleasure of helping a fellow traveller.

"We can muse ... Where have all the hitchers gone long time passing... they are all registering with lift share schemes – saves waiting in the lay-by in the rain.

"Hitchhikers seem to have swapped their thumb on the real highway for a mouse on the super highway. But it is pleasing to see that there is still a core of trusty drivers who say they would pick up a hitchhiker, perhaps to re-live the good old days.

Cutting costs

The rising fuel price has already affected 55% of drivers who are cutting back on journeys, cutting back on other expenditure or cutting back on both, according to an AA/Populus poll of almost 15,000 drivers. On National Liftshare Day the AA is advising drivers to consider cutting costs by increasing car sharing. It is better for your pocket, better for the environment, better for congestion and indeed better for conversation.

  • Hitchhiking – often overlooked but it's the cheapest form of transport and the 'greenest' form of road transport. Sensible precautions should be taken, though, like hitching in pairs and informing a friend or relative of your route. And harness technology to stay safe – when you get into a car, announce "I'm just going to text the registration number to my partner" or whoever.
  • Liftsharing – the modern hitch-hiking where lifts are sorted on-line rather than in the rain. (www.liftshare.com)

"I've been hitching for the past 40 years, minimising my carbon footprint, saving cash and meeting thousands of kind, interesting motorists," says travel writer and broadcaster Simon Calder. "It's a concept that should be back in fashion – and out on the road lifts seem to be getting easier. Or maybe that's because I no longer wear a Belgian Army greatcoat, long hair and a half-smoked roll-up on my bottom lip."

Factfile

Online AA / Populus survey 1-8 May 2009, 14,743 responses

Best novels

"On the road" – Jack Kerouac
"The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy" – Douglas Adams

Best songs

"America" – Simon and Garfunkel
"Hitch hike" – Marvin Gaye

Best ride

Aston Martin convertible

Worst ride

Fish van, killer dogs, and psycho driver

Unless you know different?

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15 June 2009