Rules in the Highway Code suggest drivers should take a break after every 2 hours, this includes all private, business and motor trade drivers. If you’re feeling especially tired, the code also recommends having caffeinated drinks and resting for a minimum of at least 15 minutes before setting off again.
It does also state drivers can also rest and sleep in their vehicle, but before pulling over for those forty winks; there are guidelines to follow ensuring you don’t fall on the wrong side of the law if you choose to nap!
Whether or not you can legally spend the night in your vehicle does depend on a number of factors, such as the parking rules and your physical condition. For example, if you are parked illegally, under the influence or parked somewhere you shouldn’t be, then it will be illegal to sleep in your vehicle.
So, to avoid having to explain yourself for sleeping in a vehicle if ever questioned by an officer of the law, brush up on the Road Traffic Act 1988, sections 4 and 5, these outline the rules if in charge of, or driving a vehicle over the legal alcohol limit or under the influence of drugs.
There is no legal explanation of being ‘in charge’ of a vehicle, individual circumstances can differ; you will need to prove that you weren’t planning on using the vehicle, so it’s advised to avoid drinking alcohol completely if you’re planning on driving.
If ever found in a vehicle under the influence, even just sitting in; or attempting and failing to gain entry you must at the very least ensure you are not in possession of the vehicle keys, they should not be inside or anywhere near the vehicle.
Otherwise, if found in possession of the keys, penalties can include a maximum of a 3 months’ prison sentence, an unlimited fine or a minimum one-year ban. All of which will not sit well with your local insurance broker, it will probably also invalidate your private or motor trade insurance policy, plus having a drink-driving conviction could increase the cost of your next insurance policy.
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Consider carefully where you choose to park, it may not be an offence to sleep in your vehicle; but you can’t just pull up and park on the motorway hard shoulder or double yellow lines for example.
Look for a safe place to park and read signage carefully, some car parks have time limits in place while some even implement bylaws preventing anyone staying overnight, especially around seaside areas and main town centres, neither do you want to find yourself trespassing on private property!
Ideally, find a motorway service area or service station where you can park up, some may still charge for this privilege. Most motorway service operators offer two hours free parking, but it is always best to check because they may have digital camera automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems in place.
We’ve all come across lorries parked up whilst on our travels, but the rules are the same for all road users, never assume it’s ok to be or park somewhere because you can see lorry drivers parked up or sleeping.
Parking is always more difficult for this type of vehicle as many car parks have space and height restrictions, again local bylaws may restrict certain vehicles like caravans from overnight parking. Although it’s not illegal to park a caravan on the road, the owner is responsible for ensuring that it’s not causing and obstruction or hazard to others.
In summary, if you do have a long journey ahead, make sure you are prepared and for the road conditions for that time of year, consider taking blankets, food, and water, make sure the new or used vehicle in question is in good condition before setting off.
Whenever parking you should exercise caution, especially if it is for sleeping. Check all the signage around you, lock all your vehicle doors, close the windows and do not to leave the engine, air conditioning or heating running, this eliminates dangers – plus it’s not good for your pocket or the environment.
Always take breaks and rest on long journeys, share the driving wherever possible, consider pedestrian and all other road users – drive safe.