The next time you’re on a road trip, don’t be surprised if you see a giant “CLOSED” sign next to the rest areas along the highway! According to the Associated Press, several states have had to close some of their rest areas because they don’t have enough money to keep them open. For example, the Arizona Department of Transportation recently closed 13 rest areas because of budget problems, and in Vermont, closing four rest areas will save the state about $1 million! Also, some officials argue that rest areas aren’t really necessary anymore because there are so many other places to stop – like fast food restaurants and gas stations. However, not everyone thinks closing rest areas is a good idea.
AAA says that 20% of crashes – and 12% of all near-crashes – are caused by drowsy drivers. Rest areas make it easy for drivers to stop and rest if they need to. So if we start closing a bunch of rest areas, will it discourage drowsy drivers from pulling over when they’re too tired to drive? Others argue that closing rest areas could cause problems for fast food restaurants, gas stations, and other businesses near the highways. For example, do you think gas station owners want tons of travelers using their bathrooms without buying any gas, coffee, or snacks? Do you think fast food restaurant managers want people napping in the parking lot – when those spots are supposed to be for people who actually want to buy food?
However, not all the news about rest areas is bad news. Some states are using economic stimulus funds to update or rebuild their rest areas. For example, in California, they’re rebuilding a rest area in one county that’s used by over 1 million people each year. The updated facility will include new buildings and restrooms, and there will be areas for picnics and for pets. The only problem: The rest area will be closed for about a year while the work is being done.