Hitchhiking has always existed here in the United States. In the 1940's, soldiers who were frequently going on leave, and/or returning to their bases after h having been on leave, often hitchhiked. During the 1960's and 1970's, however, hitchhiking became even more popular, as it was cheap, easy, and, in instances, provided conversation and companion for both the hitchhiker and the driver alike, and for some people, a sense of adventure and a cheap way to see the country and/or a part or parts of the country that they'd never seen before. It is also true that not as many people owned cars, but that was only part of the reason. Many people considered it safe to hitchhike through the mid-to-late 1960's and the 1970's. Yet, by the late 1970's and the 1980's, hitchhiking declined, and very few people have done it since. There are, I believe, a number of reasons for the fact that hitchhiking has gone down, and virtually nobody, at least here in the United States does it any more, or even picks up hitchhikers. Hitchhiking is risky at any hour, but is especially risky at night, especially during the late hours or wee hours of the morning (between 1 and 4 a. m., ) when many more people with bad intentions are out and around. Such people may not be in the majority, but there are enough of them out and around in their cars, so that they do present a problem.
I admittedly used to hitchhike myself on occasion, during the early to mid-1970's, and my younger sister hitchhiked far more often than I did. Neither of us would do it nowadays, however. When I read/heard about the slue of young women ranging in age from their late teens through their mid-20's, who were workin women or college students, who were tough people who knew their way around, had it together, and who disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again after hitchhiking to school or work, and whose bodies were found in distant areas, either in the woods, or by the roadside(s), and due to having some weird experiences myself that had the potential for developing into something even more sinister, I resolved not to hitchhike any more, and haven't since. This grisly overall scenario was rather tragically played out once again, in March of 1975, when two young college men, who'd spent some time downtown, (Not Andy Pupulo, btw) hitchhiked home, were picked up by a pair of white thugs from Southie, taken to a secluded place, and were brutally murdered.
This kind of grisly overall scenario has also been played out in Canada's British Columbia section, on a highway known as the "Highway of Tears", and has been going on since the late 1960's, where many girls and women, especially who were Native American, and Aborigine, who were too poor to afford a car, and, despite warnings not to hitchhike, have had no other choice but to hitchhike if they wanted or needed to get somewhere, since there was little or no public transportation available on that highway, plus many of the towns were very far apart from each other. Many of them have gone missing, and have lost their lives, due to turning up dead, in the Canadian wilderness there, while hitchhiking. As recently as 2005, two Canadian Indian girls, one just barely 16, and the other who was 19, with a young son (who she left behind), when, after being at a party they'd been invited to, decided to hitchhike home, instead of going to the mall with some of their other friends. Unfortunately, that was the last time either of them were seen alive. They, too, were picked up by a killer, and brutally murdered. They were found, much later. What's extremely interesting, and not so nice, however, is that when white Canadian girls and women who were of European descent hitchhiked and went missing, the Canadian government decided to do something. A serial killer was caught, and is now serving a life sentence in prison, with no parole. One guy told of camping in that general area with a friend, in 2011, and discovered the skull of who turned out to be one of the two girls who'd hitchhiked home from the party back in 2005, and were brutally murdered by that same serial killer who'd picked up many other girls and women in that area.
Now, here's something else I'll add: These are not stories that were made up by the media or anybody else! These are things that really did happen, and underscore the risks that one takes when they either hitchhike, or even pick up a hitchhiker.
There are people who simply pooh-pooh the idea that hitchhiking is inherently unsafe, and tend to either bring up the fact that a person is more likely to be assaulted and/or murdered by a family member or acquaintance (which is true), but in this instance, or to say that hitchhiking is like crossing the street, or meeting somebody at a party, a dance, a bar or a nightclub. When they do that, they completely miss an extremely important point: When a person hitchhikes, s/he totally puts him or herself at the mercy of whoever gives them a ride, and, when they're in an enclosed vehicle such as a car or whatever with someone that they don't know from a hole in the ground, s/he has absolutely no control over what may happen if the situation turns nasty and/or violent. Moreover, very few people, if any, are in the kind of physical shape that would enable them to jump out of a moving vehicle such as a car or whatever, especially at high speed. Hitchhiking is not like crossing the street, going to a bar or nightclub, or attending a dance or a party. At least, under these latter circumstances, there's the option of leaving quickly and/or calling for help if things start to get dicey. When a person's in an enclosed vehicle such as a car, however, these options are extraordinarily slim to none, if anybody gets the drift.
Most of the people who picked up up and gave me a ride were normal, honest and decent people, but there were a couple of people (men) who picked me up, whose conversation with me began as normal and innocuous, but when their conversation took on sexual innuendos and overtones, I excused myself and asked to be let out, which, in both cases, they did. Friends/classmates of mine who hitchhiked to school back then also told some rather eerie stories of getting rides with perverts, and were lucky enough to be able to get out, and one of them even told of hitchhiking to school and getting a ride with some guy who was driving around completely nude! I couldn't believe that, in either case, these women had gotten into the car and accepted a ride with these guys. Even though nothing happened to me when I hitchhiked, I'd always ask myself "Will I or will I not get to where I'm going safely?", and with ample reason.
Once, I even got a ride with a young guy who'd been a champion drag racer, to my music lesson, in Cambridge, when I was going to Northeastern University! He drove along Mass. Avenue and through Harvard Square at about 50 miles an hour! It was rather freaky, and my heart was in my mouth (or it felt like it) the whole time, and when I told my mom about this, she said, "Well, at least a guy like that knows something about how to drive a car fast." When I lived in Boston and Cambridge for awhile during the early to mid-1970's, I used to constantly see hitchhikers on the ramps leading to the Mass Turnpike West, holding out signs indicating the various places where they were headed, but after the 1970's, I no longer saw that any more, and with good reason.
I don't know about now, but back then, many perverts who drove around in their cars to pick up women would remove the handles from inside their car doors, so that when the women got in, they couldn't get out, although I read/heard about one or two women who'd been picked up by one such driver, and managed to escape by climbing out an open car window.
I would never hitchhike these days for the following reasons: One never knows if they'll get picked up by a person who's drunk or drugged out, is criminally disposed, is just plain not in their right mind, is somewhat perverted, or is simply a dangerous or careless driver. While it's true that most people are perfectly normal and honest, there's really no telling what somebody may be up to that one doesn't know from a hole in the ground. Furthermore, demeanors and looks can be rather deceiving, and one cannot always tell what a person is up to. People have been robbed, assaulted, or worse, while hitchhiking. I've had friends who've hitchhiked a great deal, and they've related stories about hitchhiking; some funny and fun, some kind-hearted people, with whom they've had good conversations along the way, as well as other, rather eerie and hair-raising stories, where they've gotten rides with some rather rough and dangerous people, and yet lived to tell the tale(s).
Some of these incidents happened quite some time ago, but it's not that long ago, given the fact that they occurred in the latter part of the 20th century. Back in the spring of 1972, some kids who attended the same suburban high school that I attended (Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, where I'd graduated three years before), who were out on a late Saturday night-Sunday morning double date (i. e. two boys and two girls), hitchhiked home. The men who gave the teenagers a ride were clearly intoxicated (drunk), but did not seem hostile, at least not at first. The two girls were dropped off first, and therefore got home safely, with nothing having happened to them, but then things took a very nasty turn. The intoxicated men who'd picked the teens up then took the two boys to a very secluded place near the Lincoln-Waltham line, and then physically assaulted them. One of the teenaged boys received a concussion due to being hit over the head with a blunt, heavy instrument of some sort or other, and the two thugs that picked them up worked the other one over with their feet and their fists. Moreover, one of the teenaged boys almost got mowed down by their attackers' car while they were escaping to get help. Not a funny scene, at all.
Also, if a person hitchhikes and a crash occurs, it's certainly no adventure if and when the person who got the ride ends up seriously injured or killed, either. There are many other ways to get contact with other human beings, but getting into a car or another enclosed vehicle with a total stranger isn't one of them, regardless of what anybody says or thinks.
I have not seen any hitchhikers for years, and with good reason: Many people have realized that it's too risky, and it's true that there are many more people with cars, but I don't believe that more people owning cars is the main reason. The main reason, I think, are the risks involved with hitchhiking, and, more than likely why many more people now own cars, to boot. All of the above being said, the United States has never, ever been a particularly safe place to hitchhike. It's way too big and too impersonal, plus there are too many people with guns who are out and around, as well.
Picking up hitchhikers, too, carries certain risks; people have been carjacked, beat up, and even worse. My grandparents, who used to pick up hitchhikers as far up as the early 1960's and even take them to breakfast, often told me a story of a guy they knew, who'd picked up a hitchhiker who got in the back seat of their friend's car. My grandfather's friend glanced in the rear-view mirror of his car, saw that the hitchhiker he'd picked up had a sledge hammer and was going to hit him over the head with it, and put his hand on his head, to protect it. Subsequently, my grandfather's friend's hand was permanently deformed--and mashed out of shape. Not a pleasant scene, either.
Anyway, Just thought I'd write this just for the sake of writing it.