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Rest area

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A rest area is a stop along a highway for travelers to take a break. Rest areas include various types of facilities, not all of which are present at all rest areas. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Restrooms
  • Pay phones
  • Picnic area
  • Vending machines
  • Convenience stores
  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Information centers
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Travel brochures
  • ATMs
  • WiFi hotspots

Finding a rest area[edit]

In many jurisdictions, rest areas are commonplace, and are evenly spaced along highways in the jurisdiction. A map of the area may mark the location of rest areas. In the absence of such a map, rest areas are generally indicated by highway signs. These signs will give advance notice so the driver can prepare to be in the lane they need to be in to enter the rest area.

Entering a rest area[edit]

Upon entry to a rest area, there may be signs directing cars and trucks in different directions to where there is appropriate parking for each type of vehicle. Be sure to read these signs carefully.


Most rest areas are safe. They are attended by staff that are responsible for keeping them secure, and at any given time, many people are present.

Some rest areas, though, may appear more isolated, and are not attended full time by any staff. If you are traveling alone, especially if you are female, and you do not feel safe, consider not stopping at that rest area, and instead exiting the highway in a well developed area and using the restroom at a gas station, convenience store, or supermarket.

Sleeping at a rest area[edit]

In an emergency, if a driver becomes fatigued, a rest area may be an ideal place to stop and nap until one is rested well enough to drive. The laws vary in each jurisdiction, and this may or may not be legal. In any case, for those traveling by automobile, rest areas are not intended to take the place of a motel, and one should not plan their trip with in mind to sleep at rest areas.

Many rest areas, however, do have places for truck drivers to park and sleep. These are often designed as truck stops.

Truck stops[edit]

A truck stop is a rest area designated for trucks/lorries. Features of a truck stop in addition to those of rest areas include easy access for larger vehicles from highways, large parking spaces that fit these large vehicles, plug-ins for electrical power for the refrigeration of goods being shipped (usually for a fee, which is a lot less than using fuel to run the vehicle during that time), and shower and laundry facilities for the drivers.

Truck stops may be publicly or privately owned. Many truck stops are shared facilities with automobile rest areas.

Many countries have laws limiting the number of hours a truck driver can drive before resting, so it is essential for truck drivers to know the location of stops along their route.

United States[edit]

A law passed in 1960 prohibits rest areas from containing commercial operations, including restaurants and gas stations. This law was aimed to protect similar businesses off the highway from competition that could hurt them. The law, however, contains a grandfather clause allowing rest areas containing these to continue to exist indefinitely, even following a remodelling. For this reason, many rest areas with commercial services do exist in the United States, particularly in the Northeast.

Some rest areas are accessible only from the highway by ramps that lead straight to the rest area. They cannot be accessed from other roads. Other rest areas are accessed by taking an exit from the highway, and signs on the highway explicitly give directions to them.

Some rest areas are publicly owned and operated by the local, state, provincial, or national government. Others are privately owned, either contracted out by the government or 100% private for-profit without government interest.

See also[edit]