Sleeping in a car as a passenger: What you need to know

Sleeping in a car as a passenger: What you need to know

Sleeping in a car as a passenger: What you need to know

If you want to go on a trip with a limited budget, or need to rest in the absence of accommodation, you can decide to sleep in the car as a passenger. 

In France you can sleep in the car, no law prohibits it, but there are some rules to respect. You might choose to sleep in the car to rest after long drives, before resuming a trip, or to save hotel costs.

Care must be taken not to stop at points where parking or parking is prohibited and not to create an obstacle or danger to road traffic. Individual municipalities, with a specific ordinance to prevent bivouac phenomena in the city, could prohibit overnight stays by car, so it is best to inquire in advance. Let's see where to park in the outdoor spaces and how to equip yourself.



Sleeping in the car as a passenger: Is it possible?

Driving is tiring, you are tired and need to rest but you don't have a bed ready? In France, anyone can sleep inside a car, no law prohibits it. So if you find yourself temporarily without accommodation or a hotel, or if during your vacation you want to stop and rest in the car, you are not at fault.

This is not a very common practice, especially if you are traveling with families and children, but it is still a good idea to avoid the risk of falling asleep at the wheel.


Sleeping in the car as a passenger: When it's forbidden

If you find your vehicle comfortable enough to rest in, you won't risk fines, but you should follow a few simple rules. Although no law in France prohibits sleeping in a car, it must be said that it can become illegal in certain specific circumstances.

In some municipalities, an ordinance may be valid that prohibits sleeping in a car with an administrative penalty. But also the Highway Code provides for exceptions: it is forbidden to sleep in the car if the car is parked in unsuitable places, such as a place reserved for the disabled, in the emergency lane of the motorway, in a reserved parking lot to loading and unloading of goods.

Obviously, you cannot stop and rest in your car near a bend and on the crosswalk.

Failure to comply with municipal ordinances and the highway code results in penalties. 

If the competent authorities find that the driver sleeping in the car is intoxicated, they can also challenge him for the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol.


Where to park?

To spend the night by car, simply park where permitted, unless specifically prohibited. The campsite, service areas or authorized rest areas are all places where you can park and rest in complete safety. You don't even have to meet a set time limit for parking, unless that specific area is subject to regular street cleaning shifts.

On the highway and on the main extra-urban roads, it is not allowed to use the garages (and even less the emergency ones), on which you should stop only in case of real necessity. To take a simple nap, car parks inside service stations are much more suitable.

Choose a comfortable place to park your car for the night, possibly away from traffic and the entrance to shops, but not too isolated.



If you decide to sleep in the car in a parking lot in the summer, keep the windows down slightly to allow air to circulate and maybe turn on the air conditioning once in a while to cool the cabin. If, on the contrary, you intend to rest in areas with low temperatures, turn on the heating from time to time, always staying awake when the engine is running.

Remove the keys from the ignition switch when parked: If you fall asleep with the keys inserted in the dashboard, the car may be considered running, with a sleeping driver. Don't leave the lights on to avoid draining the battery, lock the doors and keep the keys in your pocket.

You will probably use the front passenger seat to rest, well reclined to stretch your body as much as possible; so cover it with a blanket and place a pillow on the headrest, to make the position of the neck a little more comfortable during the night.

Alternatively, you can use the rear seats to stretch your back better, although straightening your legs is more difficult. Bring a sleeping bag, especially useful at night if the temperature drops too much.

Other recommended tools include a water bottle, flashlight, cell phone to use to call for help and set the alarm. A kind of emergency kit that every traveler should always have on him.

Park your vehicle in a reasonably lit area; although it may seem counterintuitive when you're sleepy, it's best to stop in a place that's not completely dark, for safety's sake.


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