The Hitch Safe project was launched at Mullumbimby High School last week, with give-aways of Watch your Behind bags, reflective wristbands and brochures.
The Hitch Safe project was launched at Mullumbimby High School last week, with give-aways of Watch your Behind bags, reflective wristbands and brochures.

Hitch-hiking now a lot safer thanks to school kids

How do young people without a car get around in an area where there is very little public transport?

It’s not hard to see that there is only one answer to that question, and that answer is hitch-hiking, but as everyone knows, it is a mode of transport fraught with peril.

But hitching for young people in Byron Shire is about to get a whole lot safer, thanks to the work of a group of girls from Mullumbimby High School, who last week launched their Hitch Safe project.

The girls, part of Deb Pearse’s Byron Youth Service young women’s group for girls transitioning into adulthood who meet weekly in Mullumbimby, were inspired to do something about the dangers of hitching after the tragic death two years ago of their friend, Aine Egan, in a hitchhiking accident.

“We got talking about hitch-hiking,” said Carly Stewart, “and when we realised how little we knew about it, we tried to think about ideas to make it safer.”

The ideas flowed, and after many weeks of workshops and funding from the Ministry of Transport, the girls had ‘Watch your Behind’ bags and reflective wristbands, as well as Safe Hitching brochures to hand out to students in Years 11 and 12 at the launch.

Deb Pearse emphasised that that project was not about promoting hitch-hiking.

“We know it’s dangerous and we would prefer it if you didn’t do it,” she said.

“But the idea is that if you use the resources it will identity you as a local, so locals are more likely to pick you up and look after you.”

Also attending the launch was Aine’s mother Louiza, who spoke movingly to the students about how thankful she was that something positive had come out of the tragedy.

“I’m very grateful to the girls for coming up with this,” she said.

She urged those who hitch-hiked to read the brochure and use the resources to protect themselves.

“You are really vulnerable,” she said, “and cars don’t have to be speeding or driving dangerously for an accident to happen.”

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