Picking up hitchhikers
viacacl When considering picking up hitchhikers, keep in mind first and foremost, you are not obligated to let someone into your car just because you pulled over. That being said, try to be welcoming, but at the same time alert and cautious. Just because someone looks bedraggled, unshaven and questionably clean, doesn't mean they are dangerous or shady. You have to consider that this person has very likely been on the road for days on end, probably without a proper place to sleep, and maybe without a proper meal.
A good starting point for your judgment is often their luggage. You should take a good look at the person's belongings as you slow down and pull over. Do they have a well worn rucksack and are their hands full with a map and a book while they frantically try to grab everything and rush toward your car? An honest traveler will probably have similar paraphernalia.
After this initial look, you should exchange a few words with the hitchhiker before throwing the door open. Many drivers pull over and hurriedly gesture for you to pile in, but you can often tell a lot about a person from an quick exchange, which could save you a lot of trouble. During this quick exchange, you have to keep in mind that the hitchhiker may also have apprehensions, and generally, they get the privilege of asking "where are you going?" before the driver does. This is because a the hitchhiker needs a "way out" if they pick up a bad vibe from the driver and decide they (politely) want to decline the ride.
If you decide that you'd rather not have this person in your car, don't feel like you have to just because you've pulled over and had a few words with them. Your instinct is your best defense mechanism and ignoring it because you feel awkward is a bad idea.
If you've decided that the hitchhiker is indeed legit (and most are), it's probably best to get moving so you don't fall victim to the even more likely danger of being hit by another car. Some more cautious (maybe paranoid) hitchhikers may be unwilling to part with their belongings, in case they need to make a quick escape. You could ask if they mind putting their pack in the trunk if you have limited room, but if at all possible allow them to keep their stuff nearby.
If, before you let them in, you ask them where they are going and they say a place that is very very far away, but you are only going to a place that really is just 20km down the road, don't just drive off as it is quite likely that they would very much appreciate the extra 20km that you can take them. Even one km can be a big help if you happen to know that it is a better spot than the one they are in.
A better spot is also more important than how far. Taking someone from a good big gas station and putting them on the highway (or off the high way) might make more problem than helping. As long as you can put the person at a somewhat better or the same quality place a little bit of a ride is better than no ride, if not much else it gives the hitch hiker a new scenary and some hope.