Opinion: Stop Hitching l Avi Gutfreund

Jersey City just became the first New Jersey town to require ridesharing cars such as Uber and Lyft to have clear, marked signs of identification that are clearly visible to people getting into the vehicle.

The purpose of the legislation is to prevent people who are looking to get a ride from mistakenly getting into the wrong car.

In a tragic and horrific story, a New Jersey woman in South Carolina entered a vehicle she mistakenly believed to be the Uber she had summoned, and ended up being murdered by the predator in the vehicle. This horrible story was the impetus for the new law that has now been implemented in Jersey City.

The story got me thinking. Every day in Lakewood, dozens of hitches are given. All along major roadways in Lakewood, and often on side streets as well, one will see a hitcher with a thumb out hoping for a ride. It is a wonderful, beautiful thing, but is also troubling. How easy would it be for a predator or anyone with malicious intent to pose as a regular person and get an unsuspecting individual into his or her car?

Let’s face it: not everyone who dresses like most of Lakewood does is necessarily an upstanding person. There are unfortunately sick people with evil intentions everywhere. I am not saying this to stir fear in you, but rather so that we can face reality as it is. Predators will go out of their way to snatch one of their victims. They will pose as regular members of a community and swoop in to seize upon their prey. It could happen in Lakewood too.

So, I know what you’re thinking – it hasn’t happened, so why are you making issues?

My response to that is, why wait for a tragedy to rectify a legitimate problem? Just as you wouldn’t wait for a fire to occur to change the batteries in your fire alarm, we shouldn’t wait for a horrible incident to force us into enforcing ways to protect ourselves.

You would never get into a stranger’s vehicle without some sort of validation as to their identity and safety record, such as the background checks that ridesharing services require of their drivers. So why would you get into a stranger’s car, trusting him simply because he dresses similarly to you? It’s not sensible.

I know this won’t be received well, but it’s time to put some safeguards in place when it comes to hitching or stop hitching altogether. We shouldn’t be so stupid as to wait for a tragedy to occur for changes to be made

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  1. Kol HaKavod! I’ve been saying this for years and everyone has made fun of me & told me not to worry. But, I do worry! I remember being given similar warnings in E”Y about meshulachim. We were told never to open our apartment doors to strangers, even if they looked frum. Unfortunately, those warnings started AFTER some horrific things happened to women who opened the door when they were home alone. Why are we waiting for tragedy cv”s before we heed the warnings?!

  2. if the bachurim dont have another alternative, nothing will change. Would YOU walk six miles in stifling heat, pouring rain, 10 degrees or even nice weather when a “yungerman” offered you a ride and you are 99.9999% comfortable that he is exactly who he looks like? Does normal hishtaldlus really require our boys to consider bizarre, crazy, far fetched and unlikely scenarios when making such a decision?

    When you have an acceptable alternative, we can talk. Lets start with public transportation throughout lakewood that those without cars can go where they have to go.

    And because its so important not to judge or talk before you are in someone’s shoes, i would suggest the letter writer is mekabel to give up his car for one month. After that, lets see what he suggests as a practical solution to the problem.

      • he means public transportation such as busses (affordable transportation) taxis and lyfts and ubers are actually private transportation

    • You know, they did try an alternative – Bikes – but it didnt get off the ground because people were nervous that it doesnt look “bakavodik”. i think its more bakovodik than guilting peolpe into stopping in middle of the street with no shoulder, holding up traffic, and then claiming ownership of the car and route once you’re in the car

  3. At least the boys should learn to hitch responsibly. Only hitch where it is safe for someone to pull over. Not near any busy intersections. Only while wearing a reflector (at night). Don’t bang on windows. Drivers don’t drop them off while turning the corner. Don’t stop in middle of the street.

  4. I agree 1000%. It’s dangerous to get into cars with strangers even if they look safe. You should trust no one these days. Also when a driver stops in middle of the road or swerves quickly to the side to pick/up or drop off it causes danger too. A threat is also to women who pick up hitchhikers. Just because it looks like you are picking up an innocent person you can never be safe enough.
    To @raintree resident…. there are other options!! There are busses the boys should wake up for and it’s a parents responsibility to get their children safe to school whether it’s driving them themselves, organizing a carpool, hiring a car service or if they are old enuf getting them a car. They can also bike and get some exercise during nicer weather. There are always safer options and one shouldn’t say “we’ll what can be done” until like the original poster says ‘strategy strikes’.

    • buses? what buses? my beis medrash age son in home for yom tov. His two parents are working. do you suggest that i stay home to babysit my 19year old? he walks to minyonim, walks to beis medrash to learn, bikes where he needs to go. but realize, that there are times when all he wants is a ride home from BMG instead of walking home which takes 1.5 hrs. Is it so unreasonable that i’m not around to chaperon him? is it so unreasonable for you to give him a ride if you are anyway driving down the street in the same direction as he is walking?

      • At 19 he should have this all figured out. It’s no one else’s responsibility to pick up anyone.
        There are other options. He might have to pay for them, but they are out there.

        • Wow, a new Torah Hashkafa.
          At age 19 he should HAVE THIS ALL FIGURED OUT!
          No chessed, everyone fend for yourself.
          did you ever receive help – b/c you didnt have it all figured out? maybe you had a baby and someone offered to watch your kids, or cook supper for you? Just maybe your car was by the mechanic and someone offered you a ride. Maybe you had a surgery and your block chipped in together to send you food for shabbos. there are so many every day occurrences where generous, caring, baalei chesed help out their neighbors, friends and random strangers. They dont say, “well sorry, this is YOUR life and YOUR responsibility, just figure it out on your own.” (thankfully)
          maybe, just maybe, Hashem gave us a unique chessed opportunity.

  5. @ Raintree Resident,

    Having no other alternative other than walking 6 miles in all weather types is simply poor planning or irresponsible. Does a businessman wonder how he will get to Manhattan for his day job and simply walk to the corner and hope someone will come along and give him a ride? Where are the parents? Raintree Resident, are you the type of parent who sends his son off to walk 6 miles hoping someone will give him a ride? There are responsible options like “True” mentioned above. Parents giving rides, carpools, bikes, arrange bussing with the school, etc.
    Be responsible and pan ahead of the year how to travel to school, both the boys and parents should be involved.

    And for goodness sakes, if you are hitchhiking or picking up hitchhikers, please please do so safely and legally.

    Use your turn signal, pull ALL THE WAY OVER, to the side of the road, where there is room and it is safe to do so. Do NOT short stop halfway in the road way in middle of River Ave, or any other busy thoroughfare. Don’t pick up hitchhikers at intersections.

    Hitchhikers, stand out of the roadway in a place where it is safe for a vehicle to pull all the way over for you. Wear reflectors at night! Drivers really can’t see you until very close. Do NOT hitchhike at intersections, on heavily traveled roadways, and don’t bang on windows (the driver saw you already).

    • Thank you for your response. as explained previously, better planning cannot change the facts. the facts are that when both parents are at work and my son is alone for the day, he has to set home on foot. Do i rely on your chessed? absolutely not. Baruch Hashem my son is healthy and has two feet. He can and will walk because that is our only option (taxis are too expensive to be an option). And when strangers (not like yourself) show kindness and chessed he gets home faster. Just know that Hashem send an easy chessed your way and if you chose to turn your eyes and skip the mitzva, you are the only one who has to answer for it.

      This past summer the beginning of the nine days was one of the most brutal days due to the intense heat and humidity. The boys had a few days between school and camp. I dropped off my son in BMG on my way to work. Seriously, do you think i should stay home to babysit my high-school aged son for the day? At 2pm he walked home. Did i RELY on your ride? NO! He expected to walk. but it would have been nice if one of the HUNDREDS of drivers driving passing him would have offered him one as he walked in stifling heat mile after mile. He came home exhausted and soaked through every layer he was wearing…

      If you were driving and you saw a boy riding a bike who hit a tree and flip over would you pull over to help? or would you drive right off b/c his parents are irresponsible for allowing him out of eyesight?

      Bottom line, i think the yetzer hara comes up with feel-good excuses. you dont want to do this chessed so lets think of all sorts of reasons why you can ignore someone who needs my help…

      PS I agree STRONGLY agree with all your safety messages and repeatedly warm my children to hitchhike only when needed and only responsibly.

  6. #4, True made many of the points I wanted to make. I agree with everything he says. I want to emphasize one of his points. Just as there is a danger for hitchhikers to get into a car with someone they don’t know, there is a danger for drivers to pick up someone they don’t know. Hitching is an awful thing for all the reasons cited above.

  7. Anyone agreeing with this article was definitely not brought up in Lakewood. Me as a 20 year old guy never once saw someone hitching, and didn’t pick him up. As a teenager it is so painful to get around, and so frustrating to see drivers that are going the same direction and not picking us up. How is a yeshiva guy supposed to get around?????? Buses? There are no buses. Lyft? Uber? That’s going to cost an average guy $40 a day. Who has money for that? Yes, I agree people younger than 13/14 should not hitch, but there’s no reason for a guy 9th 10th grade which predators aren’t really looking for anyway, for them not to get around by hitching. ATTENTION DRIVERS: If its 90 degrees outside and there’s someone waiting outside, please try to put yourself in his situation. Thanks

  8. Agreed 100000% and I was thinking about sending in an article about this very topic.

    It’s also very important to note that aside from the numerous safety risks for the kids that are hitching, there is also a HUGE risk to the drivers that make sudden stops, sometime in the middle of the street.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a close call with a driver just stopping without taking the proper precautions and car in back of them had to slam on the breaks!

    It’s almost as if they have no clue or care for what’s going on around them?!?!?!

    I respect the desire to do chesed but you aren’t doing anyone a favor by putting your life and the lives of others in danger.

  9. I understand the need for hitches very well. However I would like to make 2 quick points.
    1. If it would cause even one tragedy Chas vshulem, is it still worth it?
    2. A lot, and I mean a lot of bochurim that get used to hitching will go into a car, even if its a total stranger(aina Yehudi). I know this first hand, because I work in a summer camp for mesivta bochurim, that is in a place far away from any frum yidden, and bochurim would try to get hitches to stores all the time. Bochurim think they are safe no matter what, and they definitely need to be taught a lesson.

  10. I’d like to remind everyone that hitchhiking is illegal in NJ. In addition to being unsafe for the passenger, the driver takes a risk as well. Who’s to say that the person you pick up isn’t a danger to you?

    Additionally the other motorists are put at risk by the picking up or dropping of of people in odd places. The unexpected exiting of someone into traffic places everyone at risk.

    So, for all of us, please obey the law and don’t hitchhike, or transport hitchhikers.

    • Concerned Citizen, the law you cite only refers to people standing in a roadway. It does not refer to those who are standing outside of the roadway (sidewalks corners etc). Technical, yes, but that is the way laws work.

  11. @AB no I was not brought up in Lakewood but the world today is not the way it was 20 yrs ago. Lakewood is not the way it was when you were brought up and I would never let my kids do things that were acceptable in those days.

  12. Very wrong!
    Shomer Pisaim Hashem. In a town of bnei Torah we may trust in Hashem to watch over the lomdei Torah. I give bachurim rides all the time as long as I can find a safe place to stop. This town is not equipped to transport thousands of teenagers multiple times each day. Please consult with daas Torah before advising the public with your safety concerns. If the rabbonim felt it was dangerous they would osser it. It’s a tremendous mitzvah of chessed, hachnosas orchim, & hachzokas Hatorah when you offer a bachur a ride. B”h we haven’t reached the level of hashchasa found by the umos ho’olom.

    • This reminds of what the Mesilas Yeshirm talks about in Shar Hazrizus. ari baderech. I am sure it had happened during those times that lions killed people on the road, and if they had the media in those days that we do now, it would be widely reported, that doesn’t elevate it to a level of being a reasonable fear.

  13. This is a great issue to bring up. It would be even greater if some quality ideas and improvements are generated by it. I don’t want my kids to hitch but am not going to fight a losing battle with them when they will be one in at least 1000 of their peers who do hitch.

    On the other hand I definitely pick up boys whenever I can. I have been in that position myself and appreciate the many rides I got in E”Y (where hitching is much more common and much more dangerous).

    One place I DON’T pick up is at the yeshiva on Drake. It is so dangerous to stop there. There isn’t any shoulder and cars drive very fast on that winding road. Not only that but the bochurim go into the street and stick their fingers out so far that you literally have to swerve to avoid hitting their fingers!

    On a last point, it’s not usually productive to try to accomplish something extreme and not realistic. B”H there haven’t been major bad stories that we know about from hitching. (Even though there have been some bochurim who had bad exposure from hitching with goyim). Car accidents have caused incomperably greater damage. Accordingly, perhaps we should try to make Lakewood have an electric trolley and abolish driving cars. There are definitely many people who do much more unsafe things while driving in Lakewood than hitching. It would be great to have improvements in the level of safety for both hitching and unsafe and distracted driving.

  14. In response to the above poster and others
    Why do teenage boys needs to leave yeshiva and go home “multiple times a day”
    Why can’t the boys take a packed lunch and not go home during the day? What’s wrong with staying on school property? My out of town son doesn’t go anywhere during the day… he stays in yeshiva for the afternoon lunch break
    Parents/carpools/busses can take their sons to yeshiva in the morning and the same for the end of the day

  15. Lakewood has keinayna hora over 120,000 yidden it’s about time to have a normal public transportation just like Kiryas Joel has . KJ is smaller in population yet kJ has a full funded public transportation we need the same in Lakewood

  16. Just the other day I was hitching in Lakewood and some fellow stopped for me. Upon entering his vehicle I asked “how do you know I’m not a serial killer?”
    He responded “the chances that both people in this car are serial killers is very low….”

  17. Wow!!! I’m amazed how strong the yetzer hora gets to us.Giving someone a ride is called good old chessed!!! There is NOTHING dangerous about giving someone a ride. As for the actual hitchhiker that’s his choice but for YOU, the driver, it’s called chessed!!

    • This is not the yetzer horah! Times have changed!! Small children can’t play outside anymore without supervision, we can’t leave our windows open when when we leave the house, we can’t leave our doors or cars unlocked, etc and it’s dangerous to pick up or get a ride with strangers!

    • Not only don’t the girls hitch because of danger, you can see many girls walking to and from schools far away from their homes. Can’t many boys do the same? Are we waiting for a tragedy?

  18. Recently I saw a bachur come out of a car in front of me looking like he had just received a ride and appearing quite disheveled. He left him on the side of the road near nowhere.

    The car had a rainbow bumper sticker on it that represents an alternative lifestyle, from what I understand. I could not tell if the driver was dressed as a frum Yid.

    It was alarming.

  19. I have been stopping and giving rides to bachurim for 14 years now (since living in Lakewood) and never felt threatened. The boys are always are so thankful and appreciative. After asking for a name and playing jewish geography, we’re practically cousins or close to it so I didn’t pick up a stranger after all! כאיש אחד בלב אחד.
    We are family.

  20. stop this nonsense just sit and learn or if your not holding by it do something productive no one is changing there opinion because of your comment

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