Each generation likes to think they’ve come up with some new activity or form of entertainment that is uniquely their own. Truth be told, these ideas are often just variations of activities created by their parents or grandparents.
Skitching is one of those activities. It’s been around for decades in one form or another.
In today’s version, skateboarders, roller bladers, bicyclists and even snowboarders hitch rides on cars, trucks or trains to gain speed. This faster, more high-tech skitching is extremely dangerous and it’s also illegal.
Two teens have died skitching in Jefferson County in the past six months. Another teen died in Littleton.
These deaths are tragic and affect not only the teens and their families, but the entire community. There is no malice involved in these deaths, but that does not minimize the loss felt by all.
Skitching is a crime, whether or not anyone is hurt. A rider can be charged with a traffic infraction. The person driving the car being “skitched” can be charged with a felony if the rider is injured or killed.
Skitching After WWII
In postwar America, skitching had its heyday. Teens were hitching a ride by grabbing a bumper on older model cars (cars that were new at the time) and being pulled along snow-packed roads, riding the snow on their heels. Back then it was called “ski-hitching”, “ski-joring”, “hookey-bobbing”, or “bumper hitching”.
Today’s cars are front-wheel drive with smooth, molded bumpers and drive on well-maintained winter roads.
The result is more speed and an extremely dangerous setting for skitchers.
If something goes wrong with a high speed tow from a car buzzing along on pavement, it’s a far cry from slipping off the bumper of a slow moving ’66 Buick into a pile of snow.
Often skitchers ride a “long board”, a longer, wider and faster skateboard, but it is no match for a car.
And while wearing a helmet may help prevent minor injuries, it is little protection for the serious head injuries caused by a young person hitting the pavement or being run over by a car.
Lots of people skitch while friends drive, but there is an additional thrill for skitchers hanging on to cars whose driver is unaware of an uninvited hitching rider.
Tragic Skitching Case Pending in Court
We have a case pending in our office against a man who was driving in his neighborhood with his family in the car when a local teen on a skateboard grabbed onto his car to hitch a ride.
The teen spoke briefly to the family in the car before he fell under the car and was run over. He died from his injuries. The man driving the car has been charged with a felony even though he didn’t invite the youth to hitch a ride on his car.
Sensationalization of Skitching
Skitching has become more attractive to young people as it has been highly sensationalized by movies like Back to the Future as well as popular websites like YouTube.com.
Skateboarding injuries result in about 50,000 visits to US emergency rooms each year.
Skitching deaths generally do not involve alcohol or drug use, and the vehicle’s speed may not be excessive. The danger exists because a car weighs thousands of pounds and the driver’s perception of speed is different than that of the person skitching. The speed of the car and the terrain of the roadway can easily throw the rider off balance.
We all know that teens have a lot of pent up energy and that they feel invincible. It is normal for them to seek out exciting, adrenaline pumping activities, but this one is deadly.
I strongly encourage parents to take an active role in their childrens’ activities, including talking to them about the dangers of skitching. Even though older teens and young adults believe that they can make mature adult decisions, we know that they need our guidance to help them make better decisions in their lives.