Sorry-Mr-Hitchhiker...I-dare-not-give-you-a-lift!Travelling between Johannesburg and Bloemfontein last week, I drove past several hitchhikers standing at roadside. I was alone in my car and as I approached, I could see the look of anticipation in their eyes, followed by the look of disappointment and even anger as I merely glanced their way and continued with my journey!

Did I feel bad at merely driving by with an empty car? Yes – I did feel bad. I remember that as a student we often made use of lifts to get where we needed to go. Working as a tour guide in the Cango Caves 30 kilometres outside of Oudtshoorn, we were often able to hitch a ride back to town. This was made easier by wearing our tour guide uniforms and some of the tourists giving us the ride recognized us as their guides. I also remember how many years ago we often gave lifts to soldiers from George to the military base in Oudtshoorn. They were dressed in uniform and were often wearing a band across their soldiers indicating that they are military personnel in need of a lift.

Do we need to feel sorry when not stopping to give someone a lift? No – we need not feel sorry! Every single anti –hijacking guide I have come across alerts the driver to avoid picking up strangers! Unfortunately we live in times where crime is a major road safety threat and criminals prey on innocent road users.

It is important to be alert to these dangers and to inform the foreign visitors that many cars have been hijacked by hitchhikers in South Africa. Road users have been assaulted or, if lucky, left at roadside to call for assistance after their vehicles were taken from them!

We have, on the car insurance blog discussed the importance of protecting your car from vehicle theft. One of the most basic requirements is not to place your vehicle and your life at risk from strangers at roadside. Always remember that you cannot judge a book by its cover – even though the person requesting the lift might appear to be neat and approachable, that might just be the psychopath that horror movies are made of….

Avoid the car insurance claim by being cautious. Do not stop to allow strangers climbing into or approach your vehicle. If you need directions, stop at a filling station and ask the petrol attendants. Trying to figure out whether the hitchhiker is decent and not a risk is taking a gamble…Do not gamble with safety on the road!

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