You’re on a long road trip, and a wave of fatigue hits you like a sack of bricks. You blast the A/C to wake you up, but the cold air reminds you of the peaceful hum of the fan you sleep under at home. There isn’t any rest stop. With a few restaurants several miles ahead, you consider pulling over for a quick cat nap. There currently aren’t any nationwide laws that make sleeping in your car illegal, but you can suffer some extreme consequences depending on where you are. Car cat nap regulations are left up to each state. Sometimes a city may have specific laws in place to prevent dozing off in your car.
No matter how many extra preparations we make, getting tired or fatigue is a normal phenomenon. There isn’t enough coffee in the world that can substitute a decent amount of sleep. If you don’t have expressed permission to sleep on private property (outside of your own), many cities have options. There are rest areas, campgrounds, 24-hour retailers, and truck stops that may allow you to take a few hours to sleep. In these cases, it’s always a great idea to plan. It would be best if you aim to prepare for your trip three times more than you believe necessary. Keep a list of available rest stops and call ahead to ask for expressed permission. If you’re intoxicated, it’s best to avoid sleeping in your car altogether. Sleeping in your vehicle while under the influence is illegal in most states, and isn’t worth the risk.
Restful sleep may not be possible with the overwhelming amount of risk sleeping in your car can impose. In worst-case scenarios, falling asleep with the engine running can cause carbon monoxide levels to rise inside your cabin, resulting in a deadly outcome. You can be at risk of another driver’s recklessness, theft, or assault. If a nearby pedestrian alerts law enforcement, the consequences can be extreme. Police officers have guns to protect themselves, not you, and sleeping in your vehicle can put you at unnecessary risk.
If sleeping in your car is unavoidable, make sure to have a plan. Inform yourself about the local laws and pick safe areas to stay. If you have loved ones, alert them to your location and when you plan on leaving. If you must drive a long distance, find someone who can drive while you sleep for a few hours.