many years ago i picked up a few people in my time hitchhiking, and used it once to get back to town when my car broke down. neve had an issue.
one of the guys i gave a lift to suggested that as a man to never pick up a woman hitchhiker. it's too easy for her to claim that you tried to assault her and get your day ruined until it all gets sorted out. (curious if this is true.) he also helped me to learn some techniques to get out of giving someone a ride who, once you pull over, is actually all kinds of messed up.
haven't driven significant distances alone in eons, so i haven't run into this in a long time. interesting piece to appear in the NYT however.