Do All Interstate Rest Stops Have Security?

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Thief wearing black and looking in through a car window.

An unsafe rest stop can bring a whole new meaning to the term “highway robbery.” To avoid being a victim, it’s best to seek out the best and safest places to stop along your route.

Whether you’re looking for a place to stay overnight or just want to make a pit stop, an interstate rest stop can be a convenient place to stop. However, do all interstate rest stops have security? Let’s take a look!

Long exposure of car lights on an interstate at dusk.

About Interstate Rest Stops

According to Interstate Rest Areas, there are approximately 1,400 interstate rest areas across the country. If you’ve ever stopped at an interstate rest stop, you likely know that not all rest stops are created equal.

Some rest stops have seemingly endless parking spots, spotless bathrooms, and even playground or picnic areas. However, some may be relatively small, and the cleanliness may have you wishing you had stopped at a different location.

The state highway departments typically maintain interstate rest stops. Some states take advantage of these rest stops and provide promotional information and tourist information for local attractions.

Some of these locations will even offer Wi-Fi or coffee for travelers. If you’re looking for a place to take a breather, use the restroom, or enjoy your lunch, interstate rest stops can be a fantastic option.

Traveler’s Tip: When nature calls on the road, we have options that might suit you better than another gas station.

Brown buildings with vending machines and bathrooms at a rest stop along a highway in the spring.

Are Interstate Rest Stops Safe?

If you frequently stop at interstate rest stops, you’ll likely find that safety varies from one location to the next. A large part of this has to do with the safety of the surrounding area.

Many rest stops have restrictions on how long a person or vehicle can stop. These rules help avoid transient individuals from setting up camp in the spots and taking over the area. However, these restrictions only work when actively enforced.

In some parts of the country, you may pull into the rest stop and find people camping in tents or vehicles that show no indication of moving anytime soon. If this is the case, or you ever feel unsafe, continue to the next rest stop or fuel station. 

Do All Interstate Rest Stops Have Security?

Some rest stops will go the extra mile to ensure the safety of travelers by providing security. There’s no consistency as to which rest stops offer security and which don’t.

To make the situation even more complicated, some rest stops only provide security during certain hours. If this is the case, they’ll more than likely offer security during the overnight hours when travelers might feel uncomfortable stopping in the dark.

You’ll typically see a sign as you exit the interstate that will indicate whether or not the rest stop does offer security. This sign will likely tell if there are any special hours for the security as well. Whether there’s a security officer or not, if you don’t feel comfortable stopping, continue and find a spot where you feel safe.

A blue and white interstate sign signaling a rest area ahead with nighttime security and vending machines.

Is Overnight Parking Allowed at Rest Stops?

Rest stops can be great places to stretch your legs and use the restroom, but they might also be perfect spots to pull over for the night. Many semi-truck drivers and RVers utilize spots in rest stops to pull their rigs over for the night.

Many rest stops do allow overnight parking, but not all. Be sure to look for any signs indicating whether or not you can park for the night before settling in.

While many rest stops allow overnight parking, many will only allow you to stay for so many hours. You’re likely to see parking limited to a maximum of 12 hours, which is more than enough for most travelers. You’ll likely be looking to get a handful of hours of sleep before getting back on the road to reach your ultimate destination. These restrictions are another way to keep people moving and avoid setting up camps in the rest stop.

Is It Safe to Sleep in Your Vehicle at a Rest Stop?

Sleeping in your vehicle at a rest stop can be as safe as sleeping in your vehicle anywhere else. You may get lucky, and the rest stop will have security to keep an eye on things while you catch some Zs.

However, that’s not always a guarantee. Whether you’re planning to get 30 minutes or several hours of sleep, make sure you keep yourself as safe as possible while sleeping at a rest stop.

You can maximize your safety by covering your windows and parking in a well-lit area. Anyone who is up to no good is likely to seek the safety of darkness, and street lights are great deterrents.

Parking out of the way in an open area also can be beneficial as it allows others to easily see if anyone is trying anything funny with your vehicle. If others are around, you’re less likely to have issues.

Street lamps shining a light on a sidewalk at night.

Safety Tips for Interstate Rest Stops

Rest stops can be a godsend when you’re traveling the interstate system. However, we have a handful of tips to help keep you and your fellow travelers safe while you’re taking advantage of these roadside refuges.

Stay Alert to Your Surroundings

It’s essential that when you’re at a rest stop, you stay aware of your surroundings. There will be lots of people coming and going, and it has the potential to be a bit chaotic. Be alert of others around you and how they’re acting. Be cautious of people approaching you or asking you for help or money.

Use the Buddy System

You can dramatically increase your safety by walking in and out of the rest stop with a friend or family member. Someone who’s up to no good will be less likely to create a situation if there are multiple people. This can also be useful if an uncomfortable situation occurs. You can work together to get yourself out of an unsafe or compromising situation.

Lock Your Doors

Locking your doors is a great way to increase your security whenever you’re traveling in unfamiliar areas. You’re likely traveling with important and expensive items in your vehicle, and you don’t want them to go missing. Leaving your doors locked deters thieves from trying to get into your vehicle. Busting windows or prying a door open is sure to make lots of noise, take longer, or draw attention to their activities.

Stay in Well-Lit Areas at Night

Individuals who are up to no good typically want to go unnoticed as much as possible. The cover of darkness is typically a thief’s best friend. So even if you’re trying to get a few hours of sleep, park in a well-lit area to prevent anyone from trying to mess with you or your vehicle.

Even if you’re not parking, staying in a well-lit area is helpful when walking around. You never know who or what might be hiding in the shadows. You might even consider carrying a flashlight in your glove box or another easily-accessible area to help brighten your path while walking to or from the rest stop.

Research Rest Areas Ahead of Time

If you can do a little bit of research to plan your stops, you can avoid many unsafe areas. You may not be aware that the town you’re passing through might be unsafe or not the ideal place to stop. However, if you plan ahead, you can ensure there’s a better option down the road.

Leave If You Feel Unsafe

One of the best ways to avoid an unsafe situation is to leave. If you pull into a rest stop and feel uneasy about getting out, then just leave. You should always listen to your gut about your safety. If something is telling you that you shouldn’t be stopping, then don’t.

You may be able to drive a few miles down the road and find a safer place to stop. It’s better to err on the side of caution in these situations than to press your luck and find yourself in an unsafe situation.

Semi trucks and trailers at a rest stop at night with street lights shining overhead.

Rest stops can be a roadside oasis in your time of need; however, they’re not perfect. States do their best to maintain a safe environment where travelers feel welcome, but there’s only so much they can do.

By practicing a few of the safety tips we provided, you can keep you and your fellow travelers safe while stopping at a rest stop on your adventures.

Have you ever had an awful rest stop experience while traveling?

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