Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Safety Rest Areas & Waysides



MnDOT Safety Rest Area Program


MnDOT designates rest areas that meet the following criteria as Safety Rest Areas:

Eliminate an unsafe highway shoulder stop

Occur at a critical location for commercial trucks

Occur at a strategic location for promoting the state and state tourism

Provide another safety function

Are situated at the desired spacing on the Rest Area Service Network to address safety issues

Planning objectives

Identify rest area requirements and give priority to development and maintenance of sites on the high volume highways of the Rest Area Service Network

Space facilities at reasonable intervals to dissemination information, reduce shoulder stops and driver fatigue accidents, improve motorist safety and provide travelers with opportunities for rest and comfort

Size facilities based on the type of road system served, projected traffic, traffic composition and projected usage

Avoid duplication of public services, identify and recommend the appropriate disposition of facilities that no longer meet the Program Mission and Objectives

Consider the needs of commercial truck traffic on all highways

Administration objectives

Make our customers the center of every decision and every service provided

Focus on what is important and do it well

Improve services and become more accountable

Develop methodologies and use the outcomes to guide consistent decisions and direct work

Explore innovative solutions that minimize costs or generate revenue to offset costs to government

Prepare plans for new programs, as necessary

Explore alternate funding opportunities

Encourage increased use of technology and e-government services to improve work

System development objectives

Develop rest area and wayside facilities in proximity to Interstate or non-Interstate highways, safely removed from the highway, with facilities and parking for motorist rest, relaxation, comfort and information needs

Locate waysides and scenic overlooks to provide the motorist with safe opportunities to stop and enjoy a unique view or amenity

Establish rest areas and waysides near or associated with areas of natural, scientific, cultural, or historical interest, when reasonable

Include rest areas features like: parking areas, resting areas, restroom facilities, picnic facilities, orientation and travel information, and other facilities for the convenience of the traveling public

Provide interpretive exhibits or other facilities, where appropriate, to promote understanding and enjoyment of features and regions, where a rest area is located

Design cost-effective, high quality facilities, based on lifetime costs, that support a positive image of MnDOT and the State of Minnesota

Follow state and federal policy direction

Incorporate context sensitive design in all work

Cost-effectively operate, maintain and preserve Minnesota's investment in the rest area system

Maintain system in sound and safe condition

Crash prevention

Rest areas are essential safety features on the highway system that help address driver fatigue, a major cause of serious accidents. Their basic service is crash prevention. Studies reveal that a 15 to 20 minute break improves individual performance, even among sleep-deprived people. Rest areas serve as a practical way to provide motorists a convenient opportunity to stop, rest and refresh. In addition to contributing toward reductions in accidents caused by driver fatigue, rest areas also: 

Reduce motorist need for shoulder stops

Reduce driver and passenger discomfort

Reduce driving under hazardous weather and road conditions

Offer customer services

Promote the state

Promote statewide tourism


Safety value of rest area research

MnDOT/SRF Consulting Group study

Interstate Safety Rest Area Spacing Study - Analysis of Vehicle Crashes Related to Safety Rest Area Spacing

SRF Consulting Group, Inc. conducted a study in 2007 for the Minnesota Department of Transportation related to rest area spacing and fatigue-related truck crashes. The key findings were:

Single-vehicle truck crash densities increase during all times of the day at distances greater than 30 miles beyond a rest area (R2 = 0.70)

Nighttime single-vehicle crash densities increase significantly beyond rest areas with high nighttime parking demand (R2 = 0.94)

 Based on this research SRF concluded that:

Spacing Minnesota interstate rest areas at 30 miles or less will reduce drowsy driving-related crashes

Increasing truck parking spaces at Minnesota interstate rest areas will reduce crashes and costs associated with crashes

Providing adequate rest area truck parking effectively reduces costs related to highway crashes as demonstrated by a cost savings ratio of 1.61

View report one-pager (PDF 137 KB)

View report (PDF 596 KB)



Drowsy Driving and Automobile Crashes

A report, sponsored by the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), provides direction for a NCSDR/NHTSA educational campaign to combat drowsy driving. The report presents the results of a literature review and opinions of the Expert Panel on Driver Fatigue and Sleepiness regarding key issues involved in the problem. And identifies taking a short nap (about 15 to 20 minutes) as a countermeasure to drowsy driving.

View report


National Sleep Foundation (NSF)

Drowsy Driving Countermeasures

The foundation's recommended countermeasures for addressing drowsy driving include the following:

  • Stop driving - pull off at the next exit, rest area or find a place to sleep for the night

  • Take a nap—find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap


National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 287

Sleep Deprivation Countermeasures for Motorist Safety

This report by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the National Research Council identifies the increased use of rest areas as a countermeasure to help make driving safer. The primary environmental measure for preventing drowsy driving crashes is the provision of safe stopping locations along roadways. The report states that although rest areas can serve many functions,their primary purpose is to increase motorist safety by providing convenient, secure facilities with ample parking.

View report brief


Taylor and Sung Study

Relationship of Fatigue-related Truck Accidents to the Availability of Rest Areas

A study conducted by Taylor and Sung (1998) investigated fatigue-related truck accidents on Interstate highways and how they related to the availability of rest areas. The key finding was that the probability of a nighttime, single-vehicle truck accident increases exponentially when the distance between rest areas increases beyond 30 miles. Further findings indicated that the distance between rest areas should not exceed 55 miles due to the increased likelihood of accidents.


National Research Council Report

Evaluation of Safety Roadside Rest Areas

The safety value of rest areas is documented in a report by the Transportation Research Board’s National Research Council. The report entitled, "National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report #324 -- Evaluation of Safety Roadside Rest Areas" quantified the safety value of rest areas in order to assess their cost benefit. The report determined that rest areas have a benefit / cost ratio that ranges from 3:1 to 7:1 for the nationwide system of rest areas.