CASPER, Wyo. | It’s not uncommon for people to stand along Teton Pass with an outstretched arm and a thumb raised toward the sky.
Cyclists and backcountry skiers will ride down the pass and go back up “on the thumb.” Technically, they break the law every time they make the trip.
Hitchhiking is illegal in Wyoming and can result in a $70 fine. A Teton County lawmaker hopes to change that.
Sen. Leland Christensen, R-Alta, has introduced legislation that would legalize hitchhiking in the state. He says the ban is unnecessary and, according to some constituents, inconsistently applied.
“It seems like one of those laws that, if it doesn’t have a real purpose, and it isn’t being used, we don’t need it on the books,” he said.
When he was younger, Christensen would hitchhike to go skiing. He never considered the practice unsafe, he said.
“It’s one of those things, like so many of our activities, you use good common sense about it,” he said. “I’d certainly hope people would pick their locations.”
In the Jackson area, people hitch rides to work, or while they’re enjoying the outdoors. Christensen spoke with a few locals who liked to hike Teton Pass, but found the downward trek hard on their knees. So they’d get rides from tourists in exchange for some local knowledge.
Many people aren’t aware hitchhiking is even illegal in Wyoming, Christensen said. He worked as a sheriff’s deputy for 20 years and never saw someone ticketed for the practice.
“It’s never a bad thing to look back at the laws and see which ones still apply and what we still need,” he said.
Statistics from the Wyoming Highway Patrol show that from January 2012 through mid-December, troopers wrote only 21 hitchhiking tickets. The patrol has no position on the legislation, Sgt. Stephen Townsend said.
The Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police hasn’t taken a stance on the bill either, according to Executive Director Byron Oedekoven.
The legislation, which would not prevent cities and town from enacting their own bans, was received for introduction Tuesday. It has not been assigned to a committee.