Is it legal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK?

In this short guide, we will discuss: Is it legal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK? We will explain what the Highway Code has to say about sleeping in a motorhome and give you five simple tips for passing the night on the road. 

Is it legal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK?

It is illegal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK. If the motorhome is on the move, it means that every passenger and the driver must be seated and with the seatbelt on. You are allowed, however, to use the toilet facilities while the motorhome is moving. 

The “convenience” of travelling on a house on wheels often leads to the mistaken belief that, onboard, it is possible to carry out all the normal daily activities that are done within the four walls, such as cooking, cleaning or, indeed, to sleep.

In this article, therefore, we will first try to clarify the issue. Furthermore, by continuing to read the next paragraphs, you will find many useful tips and information to stay overnight in your motorhome in absolute safety and, above all, in compliance with the law.

Sleeping in a moving motorhome: what the law in the UK says

As much as it may seem possible, in reality, sleeping in a motorhome on the move is extremely dangerous, as well as impractical, especially in those vehicles equipped with a drop-down bed which, when lowered, takes away vital space from the dinette and the driver’s cabin.

Not to mention a sudden stop, which can seriously endanger the lives of those who sleep in the motorhome.

Therefore, while driving, it is necessary to always follow the safety rules established for the circulation of vehicles. The law states loud and clear that:

  1. All passengers are obliged to use seat belts in any driving situation;
  1. Children on board of less than 1.50 m stature must always be secured to a restraint system suitable for their weight and approved according to the regulations laid down by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport.
  1. While not expressly stated, the obligation to travel secured to seat belts implies the fact that during movement it is not possible to carry out any movement on board, much less use the beds.

Failure to use restraint devices in motion, i.e. seat belts, child restraint systems and anti-abandonment alarm device entails the payment of a fine ranging from £83 to £333 and in the event of relapse, in a period of two years, even when the driving license is suspended for up to two months.

If you do not want to risk incurring these penalties for not respecting the law, here are the rules that you and your passengers must observe while driving:

  • Occupy only the passenger seats in the cabin;
  • Remain seated in the designated seats during the trip;
  • Fasten your seat belts;
  • Do not use the beds in motion (in particular the lower bunk bed, because if the hatch of the locker below is not closed properly, there is a risk of being thrown out);
  • Do not exceed the number of seats allowed for the passengers.

In this regard, before travelling, always remember to consult the vehicle registration document to be sure of the seats for which your vehicle is approved and how many you can travel by camper.

Even to stop and sleep in a motorhome along the road, it is necessary to respect the rules of conduct. We will see what they are in the next paragraph.

Travelling by motorhome: rules for sleeping

Every motorhome owner is required to follow and respect the rules of conduct on parking and movement in order not to incur unpleasant and expensive penalties.

Regarding the overnight stay in a motorhome, this is possible:

  1. On the motorway: in service areas and motorway parking lots, without camping and for a maximum of 24 hours;
  1. In Free Parking areas: where it is allowed to park with your vehicle resting on the ground and with wheels within the limits set by road signs.

If overnight stay in free parking is allowed, the so-called free camping. Therefore, if you want to stop along the way to sleep, remember that it is forbidden to park with levelling feet and wedges, as well as to extract awning, steps and verandas, much less use external tables and chairs.

However, individual municipalities always have the right to issue ordinances that also prohibit the free parking of campers. Therefore, before travelling, check with local authorities or law enforcement agencies. You will thus avoid incurring administrative penalties.

Life in a motorhome: 5 tips for a safe overnight stay

If sleeping in a motorhome on the move is absolutely forbidden, the use of the motorhome to sleep while parked is allowed, provided that certain rules are respected.

However, if sleeping in your camper is an indescribable pleasure, it is always necessary to take some caution and be careful.

In fact, stopping along the road to sleep does not represent the utmost safety. Here, then, are some tips that may come in handy for a holiday without worries and nasty surprises:

  • Make sure to equip your camper with an alarm and any other possible security protection, such as padlocks for the doors, lock inside the door, metal grilles on the windows, anti-aggression spray, gas leak detectors etc…;
  • Do not stop where there is no telephone range and always sleep with your mobile phone turned on at hand;
  • Avoid stopping at motorway lay-bys, better the motorway restaurants as long as they are not far from the entrance and within reach of the video surveillance cameras;
  • Always choose illuminated and not too isolated places to stop, and do not park in places that require too complex manoeuvres to be able to exit in case of danger;
  • Find out which are the riskiest and dangerous areas of the places you are headed to and always try to consult apps and guides for campers where to find equipped rest areas.

Travelling and cruising in a motorhome gives you unrivalled freedom and autonomy of movement. However, it is essential to respect rules of conduct and traffic regulations.

Now that you are informed about the behaviours to keep aboard your motorhome while driving and parked, you just have to get on the road.

Please let us know if you have any questions or comments on the content!

FAQ on Is it legal to sleep in a moving motorhome in the UK?

Can you travel in the back of a motorhome without seatbelts?

The answer is no, you can’t travel in the back of a motorhome without seatbelts as long as the vehicle is moving. Even though you may not consider it dangerous, the law obliges you to wear the seatbelt even as a passenger in the back of an RV. 

Can you drink in an RV?

You can drink in an RV as long as you are not the driver, do not plan on driving the RV, and you are parked at a campsite. Needless to say, it is illegal and a criminal offence to drink and drive. It is legal to drink behind the driver as long as no containers, empty or not, are within reach of the driver.

Where to stop with a motorhome?

A motorhome can stop in town in a parking space and spend the night there. It does not matter whether the motorhome operators are on board or not, as long as they comply with the regulations.

Can you legally live in a van in the UK?

It is legal to live in a van in the UK or to be more precise, there is no law prohibiting it! Of course, you will have to make sure that the MOT of the van is up to date and that you are parking reglementary. 

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