Thumbs down for British hitchhikers: poll

Mon Jun 8, 2009 7:04pm EDT
 
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By Josie Cox

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Credit crunched travelers hoping to dodge transport fares by sticking up their thumbs may be in for a long wait, as a new study shows that only three-quarters of Brits would consider picking up a hitchhiker.

The poll of 15,000 motorists, conducted by the national Automobile Association (AA), showed that only 23 percent of men and 7 percent of women would consider offering a stranger a lift, but that the likelihood of a driver offering a seat in his car increased with age. Only nine percent of 18 to 24 year-olds said that they would stop for a hitchhiker, compared to 11 percent of 25 to 35 year-olds and 21 percent of 45 to 65 year-olds.

"It is no great surprise that with concerns about personal safety drummed into us, most people are reluctant to stop for hitchhikers," AA president Edmund King said.

The poll shows that hitchers have the highest chance of getting a lift, in Scotland and southwest England, where 21 percent of respondents said they would offer up a free seat, while only 14 percent of those questioned in the northwest and northeast said that they would consider stopping.

The egalitarian pleasure of helping a fellow traveler is increasingly being replaced by internet-organized lift-share schemes (car pools), to save waiting in the rain by the side of the road, King said.

He added that he was pleased 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." The study, released on this year's official lift-share day, also revealed that drivers are cutting back on journeys and expenditure as the price of fuel continues to climb.

The AA encourages "responsible" car-sharing as a means to save cash, ease congestions and protect the environment.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)