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  1. #1

    Default Sleeping in Rest Stops

    When I drove from Florida to California, I spent the night in my car at rest areas along the way. This absolutely infuriated my mother when she found out but, other than a few freezing nights, it was a rather uneventful trip and I think I actually saved time doing this as well. Obviously, there are risks sleeping in your car just as there are risks crossing the road. That being said, is it considered ridiculously dangerous to sleep in your car at rest stops through the night?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    4,546

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    Yes, there are risks in anything we do. I am old enough to remember when there was a prison break from the Florence, Arizona state prison. The prisoners killed a family that had pulled over at an Arizona interstate rest area, in the middle of the night. Ever since, my husband and I have refused to stop at any rest area during the dark hours.

    Add to this fact, that in many areas, overnight parking in a rest area is illegal. Most of these are signed to this effect. Sometimes they say 4-hour maximum, or something like that.

    If one must sleep in ones car overnight, you're better off in a truck stop that allows overnight parking. Ask at the desk, and if it's permitted, they will tell you where you can park. Most of them are patrolled. The only problem with this idea is that you may have lights in your face and engines running all night.

    Some folks have tried staying overnight in parking lots of hospitals, department stores such as Walmart & Target, on a neighborhood street, and similar. Hospitals aren't really thrilled about it unless you have a family member that's been admitted. Walmart and Target may have signs saying no overnight parking. A neighborhood street may have a cop waking you up in the middle of the night and asking you to move on.

    The best bet is either to save your money for a cheap motel or a hostel, or (when weather is cooperative) stay in a campground.


    Donna

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    9,358

    Default Previous Advice

    This is a topic that comes up from time to time, and past advice is still pretty relevant, so check out these previous discussions:

    Sleeping at rest stops....safe?
    Sleeping in your car....safe? Yay or nay?
    Sleeping-in-the-car?

    AZBuck

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default Listen to your mother

    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    When it comes to sleeping in your car, there really aren't many places that would be more dangerous than a rest area. There have been many, documented cases of people being attacked at rest areas. The problem with rest areas is that they are generally pretty far removed from towns, don't see much in the way of patrols, and because they are right along the interstate, criminals can be miles away before anyone can respond.

    If you really have a desire to sleep in your car, then there are much better places. Truck stops, for example, generally are fairly welcoming of people sleeping in their car. They are much better lit and much better patrolled. Some shopping centers - particularly 24 hour ones - may allow you to stay there overnight, however be aware that just as many will forbid it, in fact many city's have created laws banning it. In any case where you plan to spend the night in a private parking lot, you should check with the management first.

    Parking any place without a permission - be it a truck stop, store, hospital, etc without permission is really an invitation to be rudely woken up in the middle of the night.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    The only rest areas where it's safe to sleep overnight are ones that have 24 hour security - which I think are only in Mississippi and Florida. Everywhere else it's not safe, illegal, or both. Your mother was right in being upset.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,067

    Default

    GLC reminded me, I was going to mention that Florida was an exception, because they do provide 24 hour security at their rest areas.

    Of course, the reason they have that security is they had a particularly bad run of crimes at rest areas before the security was put in place - including some high profile murders about 20 years ago.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    6,936

    Default Better alternatives for next time.

    To reinforce what has already been said, and as one who spends a lot of nights sleeping in my van, the last place I would stop is a rest area. As mentioned the 24 hour truck stops and other businesses are generally safe, with permission. Permission is most important as vehicles which look like they are just parked are often towed.

    As Michael said, FL introduced security at rest areas after a whole family was murdered, years ago. In MS there are rest areas with overnight security. You see the signs on your approach. I still always speak to the security officer, and ask where the best place is to park. Then they know I am there, and keep an eye on the vehicle overnight.

    Like eveything else, just because you got away with it this time, and I am ever so glad you did, don't assume that it is always safe. Try to make better choices next trip.

    Lifey

  8. #8

    Default

    Thanks for the advice, everyone! I'm now reconsidering rest stops and actually pretty scared that I even did it the first time around after reading all of this! At the risk of sounding completely stupid, would someone tell me what the difference between a truck stop and a rest stop is? It may sound like a dumb question, but there were trucks stopped at every rest stop I slept at so I'm not sure I know the difference.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    10,060

    Default Not a dumb question

    A Truck stop is more commonly known these days as Travel Centers -- because they cater to long-haul truckers, RV'ers and car road trippers.

    But a Travel Center/Truck Stop has space for scores -- sometimes hundreds of trucks to park, a store, showers, a restaurant, filling station for cars and trucks. And most importantly, all are privately owned -- commercial places. Rest stops are managed and owned by the Department of Transportation in the states that they are located in and are owned by the government. Most do not have restaurants and none of them have garages for trucks.

    Here are some more info about one of the largest such operators in the USA.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    9,272

    Default

    Rest stops are actually on the highway, they generally only have bathrooms and vending machines, some have tourist info centers that are manned part-time. Truck stops are off the highway at exits and are full service commercial ventures open 24 hours.

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