Is it Illegal to Sleep in Your Car Overnight?

There are cities in the US as well as around the world that have laws making sleeping in car illegal. … Continued

There are cities in the US as well as around the world that have laws making sleeping in car illegal. There are also states that do not allow overnight parking at designated rest stops. In general, however, there are no federal laws that penalize individuals for sleeping in their vehicles. As long as you are not intoxicated, trespassing, or actively driving, you can sleep in your car.

businessman sleeping in car

What the Law Says about Sleeping in a Car Overnight

There are municipalities and cities that have specific laws regarding sleeping in a vehicle. This is almost always related to the local government’s efforts to manage the issue of homelessness in their respective jurisdictions.

From 2011 to 2014, there is a 199% increase in the number of cities and municipalities that makes it illegal to sleep in one’s car. The 2014 data show that at least 81 cities and municipalities have already banned such a practice.

These local laws were met with harsh reactions from vehicle owners. As such, some cities have already changed their laws. For example, sleeping in the car used to be illegal in Los Angeles. A federal court acted on the complaints of motorists, citing discrimination. In 2014, the city government relinquished the law. It is now legal again to sleep in your car in LA. The same is true in the cities of San Francisco and New York.

So, is it illegal to sleep in your car? There are no definite answers, unfortunately. You have to exercise due diligence in finding out if your city or municipality has such a law in place. If there is, then it would be best to avoid sleeping in your vehicle. If you have to travel, it would also be wise to check the laws of the different cities and municipalities along your route. You will never know when you have to stop by the side of the road for a quick snooze.

Why Do People Sleep in Their Car?

People always ask, can you sleep in your car? Of course, you can. Many of us consider our cars as our second home. This is especially true for people with very hectic work schedules. Instead of going home to rest, they would rather spend a few hours in their car. Some people will have their personal belongings at the back of their vehicle. It allows them to perform their everyday rituals in the same manner as they do in the home.

College students are also more prone to sleep in their respective vehicles. Tuition and other school expenses are exorbitant enough that many cannot afford a decent student housing. Many college students would rather be sleeping in car instead of paying for a bed space or a small room. They can use the modest savings they get to buy books or pay for other things they need in college.

There are also cities that have very prohibitive real estate prices. The cost of buying a piece of real estate property is beyond the means of some American families. There are taxes to pay as well as the cost of maintaining the property. Owning a home is a large investment. That is why many families today prefer to live in their respective vehicles. In Los Angeles alone, about 15,000 people make their vehicles their home.

Travelers on a tight budget also tend to sleep in their vehicles instead of staying in a hotel. There are budget accommodations, of course. Some of today’s travelers may not be able to afford such accommodations. So, can you sleep in your car when traveling? As long as you sleep in a jurisdiction that does not ban such a practice, then you can sleep all you want.

Young man sleeping

Is it a Safe Practice?

Instead of asking is it illegal to sleep in your car, a more appropriate question would be to ask if it is safe to do so. There are many risks involved when you sleep in your car.

Parking on the side of a major highway can expose you to the dangers of traffic collisions. Semitrailers and large trucks can lose control. They can hit your vehicle on the side of the road. The sleep that you wish to have might as well be your last.

If you have to sleep for the night in your car, it is best to park your vehicle in a safe place. An office complex or a large parking lot should offer you a safer refuge than the roadside. Make sure to check your surroundings. It is best to park your car in an area where there is the least possible occurrence of a catastrophe. Parking your car in a neighborhood with many cars can offer you some level of security.

Sleeping in car can also expose you to criminal elements. If you park in a neighborhood where wrongdoers strike, you might fall victim to one of their attacks. These criminal elements can rob you of your possessions or take your vehicle away. There is also the risk of mugging and sexual assault. In worst cases, you might lose your life in any of these incidents.

You can lower your risk of being attacked, of course. Some say you need a heavy tint on your car windows. Do take note that different states have different laws as to how dark your car window tint can go. There are also suggestions of using tarps or blankets to cover yourself.

Related Post: Best Car Window Tint

If you sleep in your car while the engine is running, you are also at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. This gas can enter and fill the vehicle cabin. Carbon monoxide has a stronger affinity to hemoglobin than oxygen. Instead of delivering oxygen to your tissues, your red blood cells will deliver carbon monoxide. This can be fatal.

Is it illegal to sleep in your car? Everything depends on where you are going to park your vehicle for the night. As such, it pays to do your homework before you even think of pulling over for a quick shuteye.

Sources:

    1. Is It Illegal to Sleep in Your Car Overnight? – The Wayward Home
    2. Is Sleeping In Your Car Illegal? The Guide to Sleeping in Your Car – Compare
    3. Is Sleeping in Your Car Illegal? – The Daily Dot