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Liam Nelson
Liam Nelson

Hitcher In The Dark

Oralee Sanders playing a girl who's had her throat slashed as she lays on her back topless, wearing some see-through white panties that we can see her dark bush through. Hi-res DVD capture from Hitcher in the Dark.

Hitcher in the Dark

So far this book has dealt with hitchhiking in terms of the various groups that practice it, the family, the individual hitcher and the driver. But when new phenomena spring up in their midst societies as a whole produce reactions and the aim of this chapter is to look at the ways different societies have coped with hitch-hiking on an institutional and legal level. The easiest way to understand the way British society has faced the phenomenon is to compare it with legal and other reactions elsewhere.

This writer, John Marshall, suggests making the act of thumbing a crime. The Italian Ministry of the Interior thought of putting the onus on the driver and punishing him for Stopping. The State of Washington arrests hitchers for raising their thumbs. One of the problems about legislating against hitchhiking is that it's hard to know who to prosecute. If you prosecute the hitch-hiker simply for visually suggesting he would like a lift, you are really going back to the 1824 Act against street beggars, or equating thumbing with prostitutional soliciting. It is equally hard to imagine arresting a driver simply because he decides he wants some casual company. In the British context an anti-hitching law is barely credible at the moment.

In some of the socialist countries thumbing is organised under state auspices. In Poland and Russia local tourist bodies and clubs issue would-be hitchers with kilometre coupons for which they pay some small amount. When a driver stops and takes them say 100 kms he receives a 100 kms-worth of coupons. The driver who amasses the most kilometre coupons in a locality gets a prize at the end of a given period, 3 months or six months. According to Moscow Home Service (12.6.65) about 80,000 travelled in 1964 on thumbing coupons in Russia.

In wartime, when generalised hardship forces a practical form of socialism onto the most convinced capitalist societies, hitch-hiking sometimes comes in for a period of being organised by the state. This was the case in Cape Town in 1944. People requiring lifts could get books of 'three penny tickets'. When a car stopped for a hitcher the driver would be given threepence and a ticket. The money would go to war funds and the ticket to the petrol rationing authorities who in return allowed the driver some extra petrol. The South African scheme was an adaptation of the 1940 London Help Your Neighbours Scheme (see Chapter 10).

In Britain the state 'blesses' lift giving when there is a transport strike. At such times the Ministry of Transport encourages hitch-hiking but warns drivers to put up a Lifts at Your Own Risk notice in their vehicles. If the thumber has had such a notice pointed out to him, has read it, understood it, and agreed to it before a witness, then the driver is safe from any claim against him by the thumber in case of an accident caused or partly caused by his negligence. The trouble with this from the driver's point of view is that often he has no witness and even if he has, the pomposity of establishing a binding verbal contract with a hitcher prior to a ten minute lift doesn't seem worth the candle. Yet this must be done if the driver is to be safe from a claim against him in case of accident. L.J. Denning, giving judgement in Olley v. Marlborough Court (1949) defined this kind of situation quite clearly:

Apart from directly organising hitch-hiking, as in Russia, Poland and wartime Britain, a society can attempt to keep an eye on it by tagging and identifying the hitchers before they set out. It's a little bit like hill farmers ear-marking sheep. In 1940, on 23 February the London Times wrote about thumbing in America:

We have looked at countries where the state organises hitch-hiking, countries where the state ear-marks and checks on hitchers, and Britain in which various organs of society like the army, schools and student organisations try to modify the value system in hitching. West Germany has found yet another way of integrating the thumber: commercialize him and make him profitable. As early as 1951 'lift exchanges' were springing up all over West Germany. At that time the person accepting the lift would pay the driver the equivalent of about one old penny per mile, plus a fee to the agency. 041b061a72


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