Driving across Texas, you’ll find plenty of interstate rest stops. And that’s good news because the state is enormous!
Texas may not be as big as Alaska, but it’s got the most roadways in the country. Unfortunately, it also has the most traffic accidents caused by driver fatigue.
Because of this, Texas has taken great strides in rest area upgrades. But are these remote areas safe?
Let’s find out!
What Are Interstate Rest Stops?
Interstate rest stops are public areas near or adjacent to highways and large roads. They provide a place to pull over, take a break, and refresh without getting on secondary roads. All travel plazas have public bathrooms. In addition, many have water fountains, vending machines, small stores, and even gas stations.
Most rest areas are purposefully located in remote regions to give long distances drivers a place to sleep. In the 70s, most spots were simple pullouts with divided bathrooms for men and women. Many long-haul drivers felt these places looked too sketchy at night, so they’d keep driving. As a result, traffic accidents caused by fatigue kept rising, and initiatives worked to improve these facilities.
Nowadays, several states encourage drivers to use rest stops to send and receive texts. Although the range of facilities varies, the primary purpose of these public travel plazas is to curb highway accidents and therefore save lives.
How Many Rest Stops Are in Texas?
Texas has 76 interstate rest stops. Several border stations also function as travel centers. They all feature 24-hour restroom access, with attendants on duty from at least 6 am to 6 pm.
The Texas Department of Transportation continues to add safety features such as tornado shelters and surveillance cameras. Some travel plazas include internet, playgrounds, and office space for law enforcement. Check the Texas Department of Transportation website for details.
Can You Sleep at Rest Stops in Texas?
You can sleep in your car for up to 24 hours at Texas interstate rest stops. The same rules apply to picnic areas and travel information centers. Whether in a car, truck, or RV, you can grab some shut-eye as long as you only stay one night.
Camping, however, isn’t permitted. Camping means sleeping in a tent or anywhere outside of your vehicle. You may see additional rules posted at specific locations. Although enforcement can be lax, chances are that if you see tents, the area is unguarded and unsafe.
Is It Safe to Use Interstate Rest Stops in Texas?
Texas interstate rest stops tend to be very safe. The Department of Transportation has prioritized their safety for decades. After rising complaints from drivers during the 70s and 80s, officials pushed federal funding to renovate all travel plazas. And they succeeded!
Texas’s renovations since the 90s include security lighting and attractive architecture. Authorities wanted to create safe spaces for drivers to pull over and relax. Or let the kids out to play. Consequently, traffic fatalities are down 28%. Accident injuries due to fatigue have dropped every year since 2006.
That said, rest stops can still be dangerous, especially at night. Security guards may only be present during specific hours. In addition, they can be an attractive hunting ground for thieves. Luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to stay safe on your next road trip.
Pro Tip: While on an RV road trip, it’s important to know Do Interstate Rest Stops Have RV Dump Stations?
Safety Tips for Using Interstate Rest Stops in Texas
Before any long road trip, take a minute to research the travel plazas on your route. Texas interstate rest stops have varying amenities. There might be a great place with heated bathrooms just a few miles from another with no hot water! So a little prep work goes a long way.
Keep your phone in your pocket as you approach the restrooms or vending machines. You don’t want to be zoning out on social media while someone quietly lifts your keys from your pocket.
Before you hit the road, you may want to jot down the Texas Department of Transportation’s phone number and website. Do this for any state you’re traveling through. You can call them if you lose something and avoid staying too long. Thieves can spot a distressed or distracted traveler in an instant.
Park Near Lights
Always park where the lot is well-illuminated. If you pull up at night and can’t see well, check your phone for the next rest stop on your route. If you see security officers, you can ask them to keep watch while you use the facilities.
Areas with picnic tables and trails sometimes become regular spots for criminal activities. By day they may be perfectly safe. But at night, may be better to avoid them and find a more public space.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Start surveilling the scene as soon as you pull into the rest area. Note the closest mile marker or stops name. Many spots have a large map on the premises, which can help you check your location and what’s around.
Try not to park by large trucks or anything that blocks your view when exiting or entering your vehicle. If you see someone loitering, just steer clear. And by the same token, don’t linger in your car. Get what you need, and then get a move on!
Secure Your Valuables
It’s best to keep your purse, wallet, and any other valuables locked inside the car and out of sight. Bring your phone and some money with you if you’re buying something. But keep them hidden in your pockets or a fanny pack. Make yourself a little safety check habit before you leave your vehicle.
Even as Texas interstate rest stops get fancier each year, panhandlers and vandals still hang around. Transient individuals are attracted to these locations because they are remote and have running water. Although some might be seeking shelter, others may take any opportunity to get some cash.
Don’t Go Alone
Although a quick visit to the vending machine may seem safe, remember that you’ve most likely parked because you’re tired. If one person needs some shut-eye, it’s best if another stays alert and awake. Use the buddy system when using the bathroom at a rest stop.
When traveling alone, avoid travel plazas at night. Try finding a nearby campground if a hotel is out of your budget. And always make sure you have full cell service. If not, keep driving.
Pro Tip: If you’re doing interstate driving in your RV, make sure you know these RV Laws.
Are Texas Interstate Rest Stops Worth It?
As far as rest stops go, the ones on the Texas interstate offer great amenities. The transportation department has renovated over 40 of them and continues construction on more. Although you should always take safety measures no matter where you pull over, travel plazas are a great way to find some respite on a long drive.
The best way to avoid a dangerous situation is to plan breaks with your trip. If you’re traveling through a remote area, get through it while the sun is up, or find a few secure options to rest before you hit the road.
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