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Is it illegal to sleep in your car?

Sam Meadows
Written by  Sam Meadows
Donna McConnell
Reviewed by  Donna McConnell
5 min read
Updated: 16 Jan 2024

Taking a nap while in your car could land you in hot water but it’s not illegal. Read on for the dos and dont's of sleeping in your car.

Staying alert while driving is one of the most important safety considerations motorists need to make when on the road. 

We’ve all been behind the wheel and noticed our eyes drooping or concentration dipping, particularly during long journeys.  

According to road charity Brake, between 4 per cent of fatal road crashes and 2 per cent of all collisions in Britain are caused by driver fatigue and as many as one in eight motorists has admitted to falling asleep behind the wheel. 

Given those facts, it is important to take a break if you feel your alertness waning when on the road – but you might be concerned about whether you are allowed to stop for a nap. This article will explain the right way to go about it. 

Is sleeping in your car illegal? 

No, it is definitely legal to sleep in your car (with a couple of very important distinctions which we’ll go into later).  

As long as you are safely and legally parked, and sober, then there is no problem with taking a nap in your car – in fact it can be the safest thing to do if you are drifting off. 

family sitting inthe car

Where can I sleep in my car (and where can’t I)? 

The best option is likely to be a car park as you can pull into a marked bay and avoid moving traffic. If you are on the motorway then be sure not to stop in the hard shoulder and instead wait for a service station. 

Make sure you follow the rules of the car park to avoid getting a parking ticket – and remember that many service station car parks will have a two-hour limit. 

You can sleep in residential areas as long as you are not blocking pavements or driveways and there are no parking restrictions. Likewise, some town centres have restrictions on overnight parking, but as long as you are not breaking any rules you shouldn’t have any problems. 

You should avoid sleeping while parked on private property unless you’ve asked permission from the landowner. 

When am I not allowed to sleep in my car? 

Changes to the Highway Code mean you should never sleep in your car if you’ve had too much to drink. 

While it might be tempting to sleep off a heavy night in the backseat, it is illegal to be in charge of a motor vehicle in a public place while drunk and you could be charged by police. This applies even if you are not behind the wheel and the keys aren’t in the ignition. 

The consequences can be severe, including up to nine points on your licence, a ban, unlimited fine or even up to three months in prison. 

How to avoid driving while tired? 

The best way to avoid driving while tired is not to set off on a long journey if you are already sleepy and try to make sure you get a good night’s sleep. 

You should also take regular breaks and don’t be afraid to stop, safely and legally, for a nap and a cup of coffee to make sure you feel awake enough before driving on. 

There are certain conditions which cause tiredness that you will need to declare to the DVLA and when applying for car insurance coverage, to check whether a condition might have an impact on the policy. 

They include sleep apnoea, narcolepsy and multiple sclerosis. Failing to disclose a pre-existing medical condition could put you at risk of a £1,000 fine and if you’re involved in an accident you could also be prosecuted. 

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