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UNBC and Mounties team up on hitchhiking study

GPS technology developed by UNBC used to record hitchhiker locations.

BY DAVID MEFFE | JAN 09 2013

Researchers from the University of Northern British Columbia are teaming up with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to better understand the risks associated with hitchhiking along B.C.’s northern highways.

GPS technology developed by the university is being used by five courier companies to map hitchhiking trends and hotspots on the open road. “Drivers just click a button to indicate where and when they’ve spotted a hitchhiker or group of hitchhikers and the information will be recorded,” says UNBC instructor Roy Rea, who helped develop the technology.

The researchers are also conducting anonymous online surveys of hitchhikers’ experiences to better understand why they choose this potentially dangerous mode of travel over safer options. “We are trying to understand hitchhikers’ experiences and needs, and then make recommendations to improve safety,” says Jacqueline Holler, a professor of women’s and gender studies at UNBC.

The RCMP hopes the research will help to prevent crime and lead to tips that could break unsolved cases. Eighteen women have been identified as murdered or missing along B.C.’s highways since 1969.

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