Like many RVers, truckers, and car-travelers, we occasionally park at roadside rest stops overnight.
Each state has different official rules about this. Here's a list of the states that officially allow overnight (one night only) camping at roadside rest areas in self contained vehicles (no tents).
Illinois -– only on Illinois Toll Road
Indiana - only on Indiana Toll Road
New York - emergencies only
Ohio - only on Ohio Turnpike
Oregon - 14-hour limit
We've spent the night at roadside rest areas in other states as well and have never been rousted from sleep by the officials.
Many stops offer regional travel information, picnic facilities and, sometimes, free wi-fi RV, sanitary dumps, a scenic view, and a free morning coffee. Scan to the bottom of this page for links to official web sites and a guide to every Interstate rest area and the amenities available at each.
Rest stops are meant to be safe places where travelers restore their energy and driving alertness. Most have good lighting and security features as well as the comfort of a continual flow of people.
Of all the problem incidents I've read about, most occurred during day light hours. The question then should perhaps be, "Are they a safe place to stop at all? " The answer: "In some cases, perhaps, not."
There have been legitimate reports of robberies, and solicitations by sex-trade workers and others in some areas but these problems and locations are very few and far between. The most common trick seems to be a knock on the door from someone who says they need help. You should be suspicious of any stranger knocking on your RV door - at a rest area or in any parking lot - don't open that door if you have any doubts of the person's intentions. These incidents could happen almost anywhere.
I believe it's no less safe to stop at most rest areas than to stop and park in broad daylight at any business, mall, restaurant, town park, or beach. Where ever you stop, you COULD encounter a problem and YOU are the only one who can decide whether it feels safe enough. After all, if you don't feel safe, you won't really get a good sleep so you may as well move on.
Our rule of thumb is to avoid rest areas that are within easy reach of really big cities. Our theory is that most crime is centered in the cities, criminals are lazy, and they'll target easy-to-reach locations. While we've never been a victim of any criminal activity, the two occasions when we were warned about potential danger, were both when we were within a half hour drive from Houston, Texas.
A number of web sites are dedicated to the issue and concerned with the closings.
Texas is one state that is adding rest stops rather than closing them.
For the time being, it would seem that, just because a roadside rest stop in marked on our road map, we cannot count on it being there or being open. Here are links to official state web pages offereing varying levels of information. Many are updated regularly to reflect current closures. Some also provide valuable information about amenities at each rest area such as wi-fi, RV dump stations, and security cameras.
Alaska - see below
Arizona - see below
Arkansas - see below
Delaware -see below
Hawaii - see below
Kansas - see below
Kentucky - see below
Louisiana - see below
Maine - see below
Minnesota -see below
Nebraska - see below
New Hampshire - see below
New Jersey - see below
North Dakota - see below
Ohio - see below
Oklahoma -see below
Pennsylvania -see below
Rhode Island - see below
West Virginia -see below
Wyoming - see below
At the moment, the following states as well as all the Canadian provinces don't provide rest stops information on their official web sites:
Akansas, Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Wyoming.
For a listing of all the Interstate rest areas across the country, including those states that don't have official web pages, I highly recommend the Interstate Rest Area Guide, a handy, concise reference, listing the amenities offered at all Interstate rest stops across the USA.