Is it legal to sleep?
Is it legal to sleep at the rest areas in NM and AZ?
Not a good idea
Unsure what the current law is. But it is ALWAYS unwise. Much better to go a truck stop or other public parking lot for some power-napping.
off road sleeping
unless things have changed since i was through there in 2001 you can sleep anywhere off road in new mexico and only in designated areas in arizona. whether or not they really enforce it at rest areas i dont know cuz i definately agree with the editor, you are much better off at truck stops than rest areas.
I just want to agree with the previous posters about truck stops vs. rest areas. My advice if you are really curious about whether you CAN or CAN NOT sleep at rest areas is to contact each respective state's department of transportation. Someone at the office should be able to find that information for you readily.
Sleeping in Road Side Parks
Many states, especially across the Southern half of the U.S. now have new "Super Size" Rest areas, not to be confused with the old road side park or picnic areas. These new Rest Areas have heated /air conditioned facilities and vending machines. Separate parking areas are usually provided for passenger cars and large vehicles such as RV's and trucks. These facilities are well lighted and 24 hour security is on duty. In some states the security is actually provided by the Highway Patrol in others by contract security comapanies. Sleeping in one's vehicle is usually allowed in these rest areas.
Super-sized or not
It is never a good idea to sleep over-night in a rest stop, unless one is traveling in commercial rig designed for such activity. Much safer always to sleep at commercial truck stops.
umm...i would highly reccomend NOT sleeping at rest stops. especially down here. it can get surprisingly hot, not to mention all of the desert creatures that seek refuge in those rest areas. we hear so many stories about being killed at rest stops and stuff.
I'm just curious, why is it so bad at Rest stop and not truck stops? People hang around rest stops and pray on unsuspecting sleepers but don't at truck stops? I've never slept at either so I don't know, but this would be usefull info for a trip I'm planning this summer.
Rest Stops & 10,000 miles
In some states it is illegal to sleep in the rest areas, in others simply unwise. Yes, in response to your query, certain criminal behavior, like breaking into vehicles, is more more likely at rest stops than truck stops. Truck stops are commercial operations with dedicated security, the chances of being forcibily stopped while committing a criminal act in a truck stop exceed those in a public rest area by a large factor.
Also I checked out your 10,000 mile roadtrip plan. Quite an undertaking! As much as I agree with the sentiment that break-downs are all part of the experience (I have had some of our best on-the-road experiences after breaking down) you have really picked a big chunk of road to travel. If you were to drive the route planned, I think the total would be closer to 15,000 miles. One change -- 4th of July in Las Vegas is fun. Actually there are plenty of places you will miss on the route -- but I think the plan has some good foundation.