Laws on hitch hiking in the USA

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the legality of hitch hiking around the USA and decided to answer them as much as I can.

I have not been to all the states.

I do not know all the laws by my heart.

But I have my sources 😉


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First of all – in most states pedestrians are not allowed on INTERSTATES, therefore you cannot hitch there.

It makes sense. You don’t want to be there.

And it works just the same in Europe – you’re not allowed to walk on a highway, are you?

That doesn’t mean you can’t take interstates at all. Most of the time they were my first choice, as:

  • it is the fastest way by car,
  • you get a lot of people traveling long-distance so your chance of catching a direct lift is increased,
  • nobody takes routes

My tactics would be to stand on the shoulder of the on-ramp (highway’s entrance). Hitch wiki says:

“(…) understand that the ramps are still technically considered interstate property and are illegal for pedestrians to be on, although it is almost without exception permitted if you stand in front of the “no pedestrians” sign.”

Doing so I’ve never had any trouble. The police just passed me smiling.

*****

Hitch wiki on National Parks:

‘The only nationwide law (Code of Federal Regulations) that prohibits hitchhiking is 36 CFR 4.31 which states that hitchhiking is illegal on any property under jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior: National Park Service. This includes but is not limited to National Parks, National Scenic Byways, and National Recreation Areas.’

*****

In a lot of states it is illegal to hitch on Turnpikes. That is not the case in all the places, so please, check the Road Code of the state. I know that is the case in Maine and Oklahoma.

Again, that one makes a lot of sense – these are the roads where you’re supposed to pay for the ride.

*****

USA numbered highways and state routes are differently regulated depending on where you go.

Regarding the places of the codes where soliciting rides is mentioned – for the right interpretation of road codes you need to make sure that you adjust your definitions of terms to what the code proposes.

For example:

Louisiana, Mississippi and Nevada all agree that it is illegal to solicit rides on a highway – actually… Louisiana and Mississippi say it is illegal on a roadway.

Now.

As much as in Nevada it is legal to walk on a highway, it is only legal if you do it facing the traffic on your side, so walking to the opposite direction than the cars on your side.

Also the way it defines highway is

(NRS 484.065) ‘Highway means the entire weidth between the boundary lines of every way dedicated to a public authority when any part of the way is open to the use of the public for purpose of vehicular traffic, whether or not the public authority is maintaining the way’ [ugh]

…and you can do nothing about it. You just cannot solicit rides on the highway.

Let’s go to Louisiana now.

They may say it is illegal to solicit rides on a roadway, yet they define roadway as ‘that portion of a highway designed or ordinarily used for vehicular traffic, exclusive of the berm or shoulder’

which pretty much means you should be all fine as long as you’re on the shoulder.

And Mississippi?

Mississippi road code says that a roadway means all surface portions of the roadway between shoulder lines.

I’d say – don’t stand on the shoulder, as that may be misinterpreted by cops, yet as long as you’re on the grass, you should be fine.

*****

Some of the states that I’ve visited…

Pennsylvania – it is prohibited to hitch on Turnpikes, you can hitch from the shoulder (berm), also on-ramps.

Maryland – you can hitch from the shoulder of a highway, on-ramps. Parking lanes of highways are included in a roadway though and it is prohibited to solicit rides there.

Virginia – you can hitch from the shoulder of a highway, on-ramps too; interestingly, it is permitted to hitch on Shanendoah National Park’s theritory.

Tennessee is a star. ‘Begging is prohibited, hitch hiking or soliciting of transportation is illegal’… But then I’ve done it, a cop passed me by, slowed down, smiled, waved friendly and continued on his way. Remember, they’re conservative, don’t like hobos, so look like a human being if you want to hitch without drama there. If you have a guitar that’ll make it even easier, trust me. I don’t like generalizing but seriously, it works.

Mississippi – as above, you can hitch from the berm, grass (also at on-ramps)… whatever comes after the shoulder; I’ve actually hitched from the shoulder and had no trouble but these were periods of 5-10 minutes of wait, not too much opportunity for the police to bother me. Also no police around – rather dodgy spots in most cases…

Louisiana – hitch from the shoulder, also on-ramps.

Arkansas does not clarify whether ‘roadway’ includes the shoulder or not and they do say that soliciting rides on the roadway is illegal. Is it OK to hitch at all? God knows, it’s Arkansas…

Texas – you can hitch from the shoulder, also on-ramps. I believe it is also legal to walk on an Interstate in Texas, I can’t find proves online, yet I was told that by a cop. A cop who saved me, then gave me a lift and then organized the following lifts.

New Mexico – it’s OK to hitch from the shoulder or on-ramp. Baudelier National Monument has got it’s own laws about where you can and cannot hitch on its theritory.

Arizona – they’re my favorite;

(code 28-796) ‘Pedestrian on roadways

A. If sidewalks are provided, a pedestrian shall not walk along and on an adjacent roadway.

B. If sidewalks are not provided, a pedestrian walking along and on a highway shall walk when practicable only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing traffic that may approach from the opposite direction.

C. A person shall not stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride from the driver of a vehicle. ‘

Arizona is quite relaxed though.

Its code says that roadway does not include the shoulder; and although you can’t walk on the shoulder in the same direction as the cars, I would say you should be alright if we agree that you were not walking, just standing. It includes on-ramps.

Nevada – don’t hitch there.

New Jersey – don’t hitch there. Don’t even go there 😉

California – it’s OK to hitch from a shoulder or on-ramps.

Colorado – it’s OK to hitch from a shoulder or on-ramps although their law is very weird.

If you’re planning on going to any other state than the above, please, get to know the state’s road code. You can take a look at this great website which gathers so much information on the topic:

HITCHER

And make sure you don’t scare the Americans off. Look like somebody whom they need to save from the evil evil world of hitch hiking 😉

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Laws on hitch hiking in the USA

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