is it legal to rest in the car and overnight in the middle of the road in australia (2)

Is It Legal To Rest In The Car And Overnight In The Middle Of The Road In Australia?

Look, we've all been there. Whether it's after a big night, on a road trip, or because your cousin snores like a freight train, sleeping in your car sometimes seems like your best option. Of course, sleeping in your car is never an ideal choice, but it's more common than you might think.

Parking Rules And Fines

Parking rules exist to ensure Queensland roads and streets stay organised and safe for all road users and pedestrians. Parking signs show you where and when you can park or stop. If you do not follow the rules and the signs, you may get a fine. Parking fines are issued by the Queensland Police Service and authorised officers from local councils using a traffic infringement penalty notice. The notice will tell you what the fine amount is. If a local council administers parking in its area, a different fine amount may apply.

Parking Fine Enforcement

The Queensland Police Service is responsible for enforcing Queensland's parking rules. Also, some local councils are responsible for enforcing Queensland's parking rules in their area and regulating fair amounts. Look up and contact your local council to find out they are fine parking fees.

Common Parking Fines

Parking and stopping rules apply at all times unless the signed area lets you know otherwise. You may receive a fine if you commit one of the following offences:

  • Park or stop along the length of the road indicated by a no stopping sign.
  • Park or stop where there is a no-parking sign unless:
    • you are dropping off, or picking up, passengers
    • you are delivering or collecting goods
    • you do not leave the vehicle unattended.

In these instances, you can stop for a maximum time of 2 minutes unless the sign states otherwise. If you are dropping off or picking up passengers with a disability, the maximum stopping time is 5 minutes.

  • Park or stop where there is a continuous yellow line painted along the road's edge.
  • Park or stop within 20m of any intersecting road with traffic lights at the intersection.
  • Park or stop within 10m of an intersection without traffic lights unless:
    • there are road signs that tell you that you can
    • Or it is a T-intersection, and you are parking along the continuous side of the continuing road.
  • Park or stop on a children's crossing or within 20m before, or 10m after, a children's crossing (unless signs tell you different).
  • Park or stop within 20m before, or 10m after, a pedestrian crossing (unless signs tell you different).
  • Park or stop within 10m before the traffic lights of a marked foot crossing that is not at an intersection—or 3m after the crossing (unless signs are telling you different)
  • Park or stop on a bicycle crossing or within 10m before bicycle crossing—or within 3m after the bicycle crossing (unless signs tell you different).
  • Park or stop on a level crossing—or the road 20m before or 20m after the tracks (unless signs tell you different).
  • Park or stop on a clearway unless:
    • you are a bus, taxi or limousine and are dropping off, or picking up, passengers
    • There are clearway signs showing days and times on the sign telling you different.
  • Parking or stopping on a freeway—unless you are stopping in the emergency stopping lane because it is necessary for your safety (you must not stay parked in the emergency stopping lane any longer than you have to).
  • Parking or stopping in an emergency stopping lane—unless you are stopping for your safety or your passenger's safety.
  • Park or stop in a loading zone unless you:
  • are a bus dropping off, or picking up, passengers—stopping no longer than 30 minutes
    • are a truck dropping off, or picking up, passengers or goods—stopping no longer than 30 minutes
    • have a commercial vehicle identification label issued by the local government for that area (stopping no longer than 30 minutes)
    • are dropping off or picking up passengers (stopping no more than 2 minutes)
    • are dropping off or picking up passengers with a disability (stopping no more than 5 minutes)
    • are dropping off or picking up goods (stopping no more than 20 minutes)

Illegal And Dangerous Parking

Parking rules and regulations in Brisbane maintain the safety of all road users and pedestrians. They also ensure street parking is available for all to use. An illegally or dangerously parked vehicle is any vehicle parked outside of Brisbane City Council's parking rules and regulations. It is also any vehicle that may be creating a public safety problem. The council may issue a parking fine or tow a vehicle if parked illegally or dangerously.

Report Illegal Parking

Phone Council on 07 3403 8888: to report an illegal or dangerously parked vehicle if you think your vehicle has been towed.

FAQ's About The Legality To Rest In The Car And Overnight

Because states set Australian road rules, there is some regional variation. Except for Queensland, it's generally not illegal to sleep in your car in Australia. If you can legally park somewhere in most states, you can sleep in your car there. However, it is illegal to sleep in your car in Queensland, and some councils have by-laws making it illegal.

In Queensland, sleeping in your car is illegal, certainly when parked on the street. In QLD, sleeping in your car is considered a form of camping, and state law prohibits camping outside designated campgrounds. The Northern Territory has similar laws – it's not technically illegal to camp in a public place, but it's frowned upon. Sleeping in your car in NSW is legal and is encouraged to avoid driver fatigue. The only limitation to sleeping in your car in NSW is that it must be legal for you to park there. The ACT has similar laws to NSW about sleeping in your car.

In Victoria, it's not illegal to sleep in your car, but many councils have by-laws on the topic. So if you're travelling through Victoria and plan to sleep in your car, you're best to check with the local council ahead of time. The remaining states are somewhere in between the extremes of NSW and QLD. So, for example, it's not illegal to sleep in your car in Tasmania, South Australia, or Western Australia, but there are stricter laws around doing so near beaches and in parks.

Even in NSW and Victoria, some councils use local parking and camping restrictions to limit the ability to sleep in your car. Byron Bay Council is notorious for this – your best bet is to triple-check street signs nearby for any rules around parking and camping.

While it's often fine to sleep in your car, it's a different story if you're over the legal blood alcohol driving limit. If you sleep in your car while over your legal limit (e.g. 0.05), you could be considered 'in control' of driving your vehicle, and you could be charged.

That being said, if you've had a big night out, sleeping off the booze in your car is always a better idea than driving drunk. You should under no circumstances drive under the influence! However, sleeping in your car while police can interpret drunk as illegal, so do whatever you can to avoid it.

Driver fatigue is a major risk factor on country roads – it's also an illegal form of distracted driving. Pulling over and sleeping in your car is a good way to avoid driver fatigue and is encouraged by some states. However, as irrational as it might seem, sleeping in your car to avoid driver fatigue is not always legal. For example, regardless of your intentions, sleeping in your car is still illegal in Queensland.

No, it's not illegal to live in your car, as long as you're legally allowed to sleep in your car wherever you happen to be. We've listed the places you're allowed to sleep in your car above, so keep to that, and you shouldn't have any trouble.

Yes and no. In urban areas, it's generally not a good idea to sleep in a public place, as you're relatively unprotected from the aggression of others. Sleeping in your car does put you behind a locked door, but you can generally still be seen from outside your car, which increases your risk.

On a rural road, the risk factors are different. Pulling over doesn't make your car immune from the impact of another vehicle, so you should park your car as far from the road as is practical. Rest stops are safer to sleep in your car as they take you off the highway completely.

Road Safety

The information in this section will raise your awareness of the main causes of road trauma and increase your understanding of road safety in general.


Research shows that even a small decrease in speed significantly reduces the likelihood of a crash. Furthermore, slower speeds limit the severity of injuries if a crash does occur. According to the Monash University Accident Research Centre, reducing speed by 11% would reduce road deaths by 40%.

Several factors increase the risk and severity of crashing when speeding. These include:

  • less time to notice and react to potential hazards
  • a higher likelihood of losing control of your vehicle
  • an increase in the distance required to stop your vehicle

Research has shown that:

  • a driver crashing at an impact speed of 80 kilometres per hour is twice as likely to be killed as a driver crashing at 60 km/h
  • the probability of a pedestrian being killed in a collision involving a vehicle increases rapidly if the speed at impact is above 40 km/h

Types Of Speeding

All types of speeding are dangerous and place drivers and pedestrians at risk. Speeding can be divided into the following three categories.

  • Low-level speeding
    • Research shows that most motorists engage in low-level speeding, where the driver travels at speed marginally over the posted speed limit, typically by around 5 km/h.
  • Even speeding at 5 km/h above the speed limit increases both the likelihood of a crash occurring and the severity of driver and pedestrian injuries in the event of a crash. Be aware of the speed limit at all times and monitor your speed accordingly.
  • Inappropriate speeding
    • In difficult driving conditions, even within the legal limits, certain speeds may be inappropriate. Wet weather and other influences may mean that driving at the speed limit is inappropriate and dangerous. Be aware of conditions altering your vehicles response time and stopping distances, and adjust your speed accordingly.
  • Excessive speeding
    • In certain cases, drivers deliberately exceed the speed limit. Doubling your speed requires four times the distance to stop.

Alcohol And Drugs

is it legal to rest in the car and overnight in the middle of the road in australia (1)

Alcohol and drugs can greatly impair your reaction time and ability to judge your speed and surroundings safely. If you have been drinking, feeling sober is not a safe indicator of whether or not you are under the legal limit.

Staying Under .05

Generally, men can have two standard drinks in the first hour and one every hour after that. Generally, women can have one standard drink in the first hour and one every hour after that. There are many precautions you can take to stay under the legal limit.

  • Before drinking
    • if you are taking prescription drugs, check with your doctor to ensure that it is safe to mix them with alcohol – when combined with alcohol, some medications greatly impair your ability to drive
    • eat food before and during drinking
  • Whilst drinking
    • individual bottles and cans often contain more than one standard drink – check the label to learn how many standard drinks your container holds
    • do not let other people top up your glass – make sure you are always aware of how much alcohol you have drunk
    • avoid mixing drinks
    • try alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks3
  • After drinking
    • make sure you have allowed enough time for your body to get rid of the alcohol in your system before driving again

Drugs And Driving

Drug use can drastically impair driving ability and increase the risk of crashing. If you are taking prescription drugs, check with your doctor that it is still safe to drive.


Research has shown that driver fatigue contributes to up to one-third of serious crashes. You do not need to fall asleep at the wheel to crash. However, fatigue can seriously impair your ability to drive safely, well before you nod off. Often drivers do not realise when they are too tired to drive. Avoid driver fatigue, especially on long journeys, by taking the following steps:

  • get plenty of sleep before a long drive
  • take regular rest stops, and when on a break, you should take a short walk or stop for refreshments
  • make accommodation plans before leaving if you think you may need to stay somewhere overnight
  • Share the driving with a travelling companion.
  • take extra care when driving between midnight and 6 am as during these hours, your body is most at risk from fatigue
  • limit your speed on long drives

If Your Car Breaks Down

If there are warning signs that your car is faltering, you may have enough time to reach a busy public space where you can stop. If you have a flat tyre, it may be best to drive slowly until you reach a safe place to stop. Though this can damage the rim, it may be preferable to compromise your safety.

If it is dark and you break down in a very isolated place, you may have to consider spending the night in your vehicle. Alternatively, put on your hazard lights, leave your bonnet up, lock your car doors, flash your lights and try to attract attention. If it is nighttime, this will also alert other drivers that there is a broken-down car on the road. It is safest not to accept lifts from persons unknown to you. Instead, ask them to call RACV or a nominated person for you.

Calling For Assistance

If you have a mobile phone, stay in your car and call for assistance. If you do not, decide whether it is safe enough to leave the car and call for assistance, considering the time and your location. If someone offers assistance, it is safest to remain in your car and speak through a partially opened window. You may have to rely on a motorist making a call for you if a telephone is too far away. When calling for assistance, try to arrange to be located from the phone location. For example, if you attend a house, ask the resident to ring for you rather than enter.

Mobile Phones

Using a mobile phone whilst driving distracts your attention from the road and prevents you from maintaining proper vehicle control.

  • It is illegal in all Australian states and territories to use a handheld mobile phone while driving. This includes:
  • talking
  • texting
  • playing games
  • taking photos/videos
  • using any other function on your mobile phone
  • holding the body of the mobile phone in your hand

Using a handheld mobile phone is illegal when your vehicle is stationary but not parked, e.g. when you're stopped at traffic lights. Drivers who break this law in Victoria face an on-the-spot fine and incur four demerit points. In addition, learner, P1 and P2 drivers are not permitted to use a handheld or hands-free mobile phone while driving.

Hands-Free Kits

is it legal to rest in the car and overnight in the middle of the road in australia (3)

It is illegal to use a hands-free phone whilst driving if it causes you to lose proper control of your vehicle. The penalty is a significant fine and demerit points. Although a hands-free device can reduce the physical effort to make and receive calls, it does not necessarily make phone use safer while driving. Consider the following suggestions if you must talk on a hands-free phone whilst driving:

  • make sure the hands-free function is set up and working before you start driving
  • keep conversations short
  • do not engage in complex or emotional conversations
  • explain to your caller that you are driving and arrange a better time to speak with them
  • if the call is distracting you from driving, end the call


In a crash, most injuries to car occupants are caused by contact with the steering wheel, dashboard, windscreen and the car's roof and sides. Seatbelts have proven to help prevent or limit these types of injuries in most crashes. In addition, research has shown that wearing a properly adjusted lap and shoulder seat belt reduces the risk of serious or fatal injury by half. Even sudden braking or cornering can cause severe injuries to unrestrained passengers. Therefore, lap and shoulder belts should be available in all seating positions in the vehicle, including the centre rear seat.

Before Driving Off

Please take a minute to ensure that all your passengers are wearing their seat restraints correctly. The driver's responsibility is to ensure that all children under 16 years of age are wearing an approved seat restraint. Help children learn about the importance of seatbelts by wearing yours on every trip, however short.

Child Restraints

Drivers are responsible for ensuring all passengers are wearing seat belts or child restraints correctly. Everyone travelling in a motor vehicle must be restrained by using either a child restraint, a booster seat or an adult seat belt that is properly adjusted and fastened. The type of restraint to be used depends on the person's age and size.

  • children under six months of age must travel in a rear-facing child restraint
  • children aged six months to under four years must travel in either a rear-facing or forward-facing child restraint
  • children aged four years to under seven years must travel in either a forward-facing child restraint with an inbuilt harness or a booster seat
  • children aged seven years to under 16 years must travel in either a booster seat or use an adult seatbelt
  • people 16 years and over must be restrained by an adult seat belt


Whether you are a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian, there are many things you can do to significantly reduce the likelihood of being injured or injuring another person on Victoria's roads. 

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