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Is It Legal to Sleep in Your Car at a Rest Area?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Many of us have been a little too tired to drive at one time or another. (Actually, one out of every 24 of us admits to drowsy driving.) And drowsy driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. So if your eyelids are getting heavy out on the highway, you might be thinking a little nap at a rest stop might be a good idea.

But is it legal? I mean, it says "Rest Area" right on the sign, but are you actually allowed to sleep in your car at one?

Sleeping In

For the most part, sleeping in your car at a rest area is OK, but there may be some time and location restrictions. For instance, some rest stops don't allow overnight parking or sleeping at all, while some states prohibit sleeping at rest areas entirely. But in a pinch, a ticket might be worth being safe.

There should be signs at the rest stop indicating whether it's legal to sleep there. And it's generally a good idea to avoid poorly lit or poorly attended rest areas -- try to find one with 24-hour security if you can.

Sleeping One Off

If, on the other hand, you think you might be too intoxicated to drive, sleeping it off might be a better option. But be careful -- you can still get a DUI, even if you're sleeping in your car. State DUI laws can vary, but most will allow a DUI conviction if you are "in control of the vehicle," which doesn't necessarily mean you're driving at the time.

Most courts will look at where your car is parked, where you are sleeping in the car, where your keys are, and whether the car can be driven to determine control of the vehicle. So you should probably make sure you're parked well off the road with the car turned fully off, keys well hidden, and sleeping in the back seat just to be safe.

State and local traffic laws can vary, so if you've been ticketed while sleeping at a rest area, you should probably talk to an experienced traffic attorney near you.

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