An exhausted motorist who has been driving for long hours may often feel drowsy, which in turn can lead to accidents. So, if you have been driving without taking a break, it is always safer to take a power nap than to continue driving. But is it okay to sleep in a car? Will you be fined if you sleep in the car for long hours? Let's know the rules.
Different rules apply in different states for sleeping or dwelling in your car. In Texas, Florida, and California, you are allowed to sleep in your car for up to 24 hours, 3 hours, and 8 hours, respectively. These general rules are also subject to certain conditions and exceptions under local laws. However, being intoxicated or entering a restricted parking area is illegal at all places.
When a driver cannot find accommodation nearby, he or she may seek to sleep in the car. But many people are not aware of the fact that sleeping in a car can be illegal in some areas. So no matter what your itinerary is, it is imperative to have a general understanding of the local laws. Continue reading to find out if sleeping in the car is illegal in your state.
Why Is Sleeping In A Car Considered Unsafe?
There are practical reasons that some states do not allow dwelling/sleeping inside a car. Sleeping in the car can lead to some serious health concerns. It is especially very dangerous if you sleep in a car with the windows closed. When you sleep with car engines turned on, there is a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The exhaust fumes may also enter and pollute the environment of the car. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless poisonous gas that can build quickly in closed spaces and cause havoc. One can even lose consciousness or die due to suffocation as the same air is recycled in the car over and over again.
Besides all of these, sleeping in the car can cause back pain, shoulder pain, and spinal issues.
In some states, sleeping in a car is also made illegal to regulate homelessness and loitering. A few of them have 'safe parking lots' which allow parking of vehicles and facilitate accommodation. Oversized vehicles and suspicious activities can limit your freedom.
Note that here we have also mentioned the rules and regulations for those of you who are planning to use the vehicle as a place for temporary residence or accommodation. In legal terms, this is known as 'dwelling' inside the car. Possession of articles like sleeping bags, blankets, kitchen utensils, preparing meals, or obscuring some or all of the vehicle's windows is also considered a dwelling.
Is Sleeping In Your Car Illegal?
Sleeping in a car is especially preferred by travelers who want to cut down on the cost of a long road trip. But local laws in some areas do not allow you to sleep in a car. For some states, laws related to sleeping in your car are very clear. For example, North and South Carolina have banned sleeping in cars altogether. In other states and areas where sleeping in a car is allowed, make sure not to break any laws to avoid being fined heavily.
Is Sleeping In Your Car Illegal In California?
According to the California State Department of Transportation, sleeping in a car is not considered illegal. However, there are some exceptions:
- You are not allowed to sleep or rest in your car for more than 8 hours at the same place in 24 hours.
- Though sleeping in a car is allowed, the big question is where to park your car. When in California, you are not allowed to park on the side of a freeway except for emergencies.
- In Berkeley, California, RV parking is not allowed between 2 AM to 5 AM.
- In San Francisco, overnight sleeping in a car is not allowed between 10 AM to 6 PM, and you could be fined as high as $1,000.
- Do remember that it is illegal to camp or pitch a tent on the road or on private property without permission.
Additionally, if you are in Los Angeles, you are not allowed to reside in the car between 9 PM to 6 AM on any residential street. Sleeping or dwelling in your car is also prohibited at all times at places that are within 500 feet of a school, preschool, daycare facility, or park. The Los Angeles Police Department has color-coded keys (red, yellow, and green) that signify whether a place can be used to sleep at night or otherwise.
Is Sleeping In Your Car Illegal In Texas?
Texas is a drive-friendly state with many 'parks' in different locations. You can drive throughout the state, and sleeping in your car is legal in Texas, subject to certain conditions. Walmart stores, hotel & hospital parking lots, and Texas state parks are some of the best locations to park your car and sleep for a brief period. In Texas, the following rules are currently applicable:
- You are not allowed to park in any rest area for more than 24 hours. Thus, you should start driving again and look for another parking spot if you are planning to dwell in your car for more than 24 hours.
- If you are intoxicated and you sleep in the car, that's against the state law, and the cops can charge you for the act.
- You are also not advised to leave the car keys in the ignition.
- You could also be arrested if you slept on the driver's seat or with the seatbelt on.
Is Sleeping In Your Car Illegal In Florida?
Though there are no federal laws that make sleeping inside the car illegal in Florida, there are a few restrictions in certain cities and municipalities. If you can't find out all the rules, the following are some of the best practices to follow when planning to sleep in your car in Florida:
- No driver or motorist is allowed to sleep in the car for more than 3 hours.
- You cannot park and sleep in your vehicle during the night.
- You are not allowed to sleep in the middle of a neighborhood. Thus, it is best to find a designated stop that allows you to rest.
- If you are intoxicated while you are in physical control of the vehicle, you can be charged with a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) by a police officer.
For all states, it is considered illegal to sleep in a car if you are trespassing on some private property.
Always Put Your Safety First
In most cases, if you obey rules and signage, and avoid loitering in restricted parking areas, you won't be in trouble. While sleeping, do not put on blackout curtains and keep the space clean. Make sure there is the availability of a restroom in the vicinity. Only if you are sleeping in a warmer climate you would want to keep the windows slightly open.
To avoid injury and accidents, make sure that the car is completely turned off before you take a nap. Do obey signage and stay away from highway shoulders and busy streets. It is also wise to avoid sleeping on popular tourist places and beaches. Avoid parking on private property unless you seek permission from the owner. Before you sleep in the car, ensure that your mobile is fully charged so that you have access in case of emergencies.
Also, do note that these local laws change from time to time. Many towns and stores that previously allowed parking have been making sleeping in cars illegal to curb homelessness and nuisance by visitors or overnight campers. Always check local ordinances for a safe and trouble-free journey.
Feruza is a mom and a blogger. She had a neck pain for 15 years, which made her interested in everything about pillows.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure.