If you’ve ever been feeling tired or unable to find a hotel to sleep in, you might have considered sleeping in your car.
Find out whether sleeping in your car is legal and, even if not, when you might get in trouble for doing so.
Is it Illegal to Sleep in Your Car?
It’s not illegal to sleep in your car. It’s fine to pull over and have a quick nap in your car if you’re feeling tired – because driving tired can be lethal! Also, it’s perfectly fine to sleep for a few hours in your car if, for instance, you cannot find a hotel.
So there’s nothing in UK law to say you cannot sleep in your car.
However, there are some circumstances when you might get in trouble for sleeping in your car.
Let’s explore a few.
When Can You Not Sleep In Your Car?
When sleeping in your car, the most important thing is that you park somewhere you’re allowed to park. On the motorway, this means a service station car park, or a designated layby or rest stop. There might be restrictions for how long you can park, though, so check around for any signs and set an alarm if necessary.
Don’t just pull over onto the hard shoulder, as this is for breakdowns and emergencies only.
On other roads, the same rules apply: So long as you park somewhere you’re allowed to park, you should be perfectly fine sleeping in your car. Don’t nap while parked on a single or double yellow line, and don’t obstruct any driveways or entrances.
Again, check for any signs that might explain local restrictions. Some councils and car parks prohibit “overnight stays”, for instance. Others enforce maximum stays. So once more, you may have to set an alarm to avoid breaking any rules.
If you do sleep in your car, you might be woken up by the police knocking on your window. Don’t worry! They’re probably not here to arrest you. Most likely, they’ll just be checking you’re OK. But they’ll also be making sure you’re not drunk.
Can You Sleep in Your Car While Drunk?
If you’re a young driver you may be tempted to sleep in your car after a night out. If you’re caught sleeping in your car under the influence of drink or drugs, you could be prosecuted. This is because not only is it illegal to drink and drive, it’s illegal to be drunk, or on drugs, in your vehicle.
If you’ve had a night out and you intended to drive back, it might seem like a good idea to sleep in your car for a bit, to give the alcohol time to leave your system.
It doesn’t matter if you weren’t actually driving the car. Nor will it matter that you were sleeping, and parked in a place where it was perfectly legal to park. As far as the law’s concerned, you could still be guilty of being “drunk in charge of a motor vehicle”. You could get a fine for this, and some points on your licence. And this means your car insurance might go up.
So don’t risk it! Don’t sleep in your car if you’ve had a drink. Get a lift or a taxi if you can. You can always return to your car the next day, when you’re sober.
Other Things You Can and Can’t Do in a Car
The Highway Code is huge, with more rules than you can imagine. It’s no wonder people get confused about what you can and cannot do on the road.
That’s why we’ve written some guides to common road law myths and misunderstandings:
- Is it illegal to drive barefoot? Or in flipflops?
- Is it illegal to drive in pyjamas?
- Window tinting and the law.
- Is it illegal to have an unrestrained dog in the car?
- Are car stickers and eyelashes legal?
- Mobile phone driving law – what you need to know.
- Hay fever tablets and driving – how to stay safe.