Five Tips for Choosing Safe Rest Stops

“Are we there yet?”

“Mom, Tommy keeps looking at me!”

“How much further? I have to go to the bathroom NOW!”

As a parent, chances are you’ve heard variations of the above complaints more than once during a family road trip. Between sibling bickering and the call of nature, traveling long distances in a California car rental can be a truly trying experience. Luckily, rest stops exist to provide you with a bit of a break and space to stretch your legs. A part of the U.S. Interstate highway system since its inception in the late 1950s, rest areas are designed to provide travelers with a safe place to make a pit stop. 

But just how safe are rest stops these days?

Reports of increased crimes like prostitution, vandalism, theft and carjacking have caused many families to bypass the blue exit signs that mark these American staples. If you’re planning to take a road trip in your California car rental, you shouldn’t have to worry about your safety when stopping for a snack. The following tips are designed to help you quickly and easily assess the safety of a rest area during your next family drive.

Tip #1 – Be Aware of Your Surroundings

The first thing that you should do when you pull into a rest area is assess your surroundings. Make sure to note the stop’s name as well as the closest mile marker and exit name. This way, if an emergency situation were to occur, you’d be able to quickly provide the authorities with your location. If you’re traveling with children, be sure to accompany them to the washroom and remember to keep them close while resting outside your California car rental vehicle. Remind them not to speak to strangers and not to wander away.

When selecting a parking space at a rest stop, try and avoid choosing one that’s next to a large truck. This could block your view of the parking lot and leave you vulnerable when rummaging through your trunk or backseat. When walking towards the rest area building, be wary of any thick bushes or recessed areas and try to avoid walking around blind corners.

Tip #2 – Walk Towards the Light

Rest area buildings are often well-lit. However, these lights can burn out over time, casting dark and ominous shadows around the perimeter of a building. If you pull into a rest stop and find that it’s poorly lit, it’s best to keep driving until you come across another, safer option. It’s also important that you look for parking lots that are well illuminated. Criminals are far less likely to approach a California car rental that’s parked in a highly visible area.

Tip #3 – Choose Your Rest Area Carefully

If you’re traveling alone in your California car rental, be extra caution concerning your rest stop selection. Lone travelers are often a much easier target for thieves and criminals, especially if you’re stopped at an isolated and empty rest stop. Instead of risking your safety and stopping at an Interstate rest area, SuperCheap recommends pulling off the freeway and stopping at a staffed facility, like a fast food restaurant or convenience store. This might add a few minutes to your trip, but your safety is ultimately worth the delay.

Tip #4 – Common Sense Can Go a Long Way

The simplest safety measures are often the most effective. When you pull into a parking place in your California car rental, don’t linger in your car. The longer you sit in your car checking your text messages or reviewing your route, the more time a criminal has to target your vehicle and plan their attack. If you need a minute or two to gather your belongs before exiting the vehicle, remember to lock your doors. Similarly, when you exit the vehicle, remember to reengage the locks to prevent theft.

Tip #5 – Tired? Find a Hotel

While sleeping in your car might seem like an affordable option, it certainly isn’t the safest decision. In fact, many states have banned sleeping at rest stops in order to mitigate risk and prevent crime. If you need to take a nap, your best bet is to look for a campground or hotel where, for a small fee, you can safely take a snooze.

Information on Rest Areas in California

Preparing for a California car rental road trip? Then remember to bookmark California Department of Transportation website’s interactive rest area map. California car rental travelers are also bound by the state’s Rest Area Usage Policy. As a visitor, you’re permitted to:

  • Park in any designated parking spot.
  • Stay up to 8 hours in a 24 hour period.
  •  Walk your pet, as long as it is on a leash.
  • Place your litter in trash receptacles.
  • Use small stoves and heaters (with the exception of wood tables) if you do so safely.

California car rental travelers are not permitted to camp at rest stops. Failure to abide by the policies could result in a citation from a California Peace Officer.

Stay safe during your upcoming California road trip. Remember to keep your wits about you when visiting any rest areas along your route.