Is it Illegal to Sleep in Your Car

People occasionally find the idea of sleeping in their car convenient, usually because of driving fatigue, to save money on hotels or perhaps they have had too much alcohol and they do not want to risk driving.

Whether it is illegal to sleep in your car or not depends on your circumstances and your location. Where you choose to sleep can also impact on whether you get woken by the authorities or not.

Driving fatigue or driving whilst tired accounts for many thousands of road accidents each year. It’s estimated that 300 people are killed each year in the UK due to falling asleep at the wheel.

Tired, exhausted or sleep-deprived drivers will in almost all cases have warning before falling asleep and will attempt to alleviate the symptoms by opening windows or turning up the radio. Although this may help short-term, it’s often temporary.

Motorways in particular tend to be monotonous, often exacerbating the symptoms of tiredness which may suggest why major roads account for around 20% of sleep related accidents.

Sleeping in your car
Sleeping in your car is generally considered perfectly legal

It’s advisable to include a 15 minute break for every two hours of driving, especially if major roads such as motorways account for a large section of your journey.

Those that are on the road for long periods of time are more at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel. Take also into account your type of occupation as 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles. If you find yourself getting sleepy whilst driving, find a safe place to stop and take a break. If possible consume a high-caffeine drink.

Driving whilst tired affects the quality of your driving. It is of course dangerous for you and other road users and even fatal in many cases each year. If you are stopped by the police and found to be driving tired to the point it affects your ability to drive, you can face a careless driving penalty or dangerous driving if the incident is more severe. In either case, it will result in a fine, penalty points and potential driving ban.

sleeping in my car, Am I allowed?

It’s perfectly legal to sleep in your car and is recommended for those that are driving tired and at risk. Ensure you park legally and in a non-hazardous location from other road vehicles. You may find however that sleeping in a car may draw the attention of the police. Essentially they will check to ensure you are not in any harm, but also to check if you are a drink driver.

Parking in a residential area and sleeping in your car may cause residents that are concerned to inform the police. A quiet corner of a supermarket car park is likely to see you left alone or a legal rest area off of a motorway.

Sleeping in a car drunk

To avoid driving after an alcoholic drink, it’s far safer to sleep it off in your car rather than risk driving home. Although it’s the sensible choice, it still comes with a risk of being convicted of drunk in charge of a vehicle.

Drunk in charge of a motor vehicle does not incur as serious penalties as drink driving. Penalties still have the potential of being severe however, so if at all possible either look elsewhere to sleep or take a taxi home and leave your car well-alone.

If you have no option but to sleep in your car to avoid drink driving, take precautions to minimise a potential drunk in charge penalty. If the police deem you as a risk, you will be taken to their station for processing and will be issued with a court summons. The court will look into the following factors to assess the risk you posed, in that how likely you were to drive.

  • Where you were seated

    Found sleeping in the driving seat suggests you pose a higher risk of driving compared to being found on the rear seat.

  • What you were doing

    Don’t be tempted to take alcohol with you if you intend on sleeping in your car. It looks far more risky if there are bottles or cans, empty or otherwise found in your car.

  • Where were the keys

    If the keys are found in the ignition you stand a much higher chance of being prosecuted for drunk in charge. Shut the keys away in the glove compartment.

Such circumstances above provide the police and the court of an indication of whether you intended to drive the vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol or intend to sleep it off. If seen to be significantly over the alcohol limit, the police and court may also take into account whether you may remain over the limit when you wake up and intend on driving.

If the court find you guilty of drunk in charge, it is possible you could receive a driving ban although this isn’t mandatory and is within the courts discretion. 10 penalty points along with a fine is typically issued, where points already existing on your licence may see you with your licence being revoked if 12 points or more are gained.

Driving tired statistics and tips

20% of sleep / tired related accidents occur on major roads such as motorways and dual carriageways. Look out for the warning signs of getting tired and sleepy, particularly on major roads which tend to be monotonous. If you need to stop for a break, stop in a safe place, not the hard shoulder of a motorway.

Sleep related accidents are most frequent after lunch between 2pm and 4pm (especially after eating) and during the early hours. If you are feeling sleepy at these times, pull over in a safe place to take a break or a nap. If possible, consume high-caffeine drinks.

Assess your risk. Those that are on the road more than most are more at risk of falling asleep whilst driving. Around 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles. To minimise the chances of falling asleep at the wheel, take a 15 minute break for every two hours of driving. If you are tired, or have had less sleep than normal, it’s not only the risk of falling asleep whilst driving. Driving tired reduces reaction time, concentration and alertness making you more at risk of accidents.

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