There are many laws governing the use of motor vehicles to make our roads safer. Such laws include speed limits, yielding to pedestrians, and using seat belts. A driver’s pedal input plays a significant role in vehicle control, but are there any laws on whether wearing shoes is necessary for operating a vehicle?
It is not illegal to drive barefoot in the United States, but it may be considered unsafe. Going barefoot makes it harder to grip the pedals and sometimes tough to apply intense brake pressure. Conversely, footwear such as flip-flops, high-heels, and thick-soled shoes are just as hazardous.
Continue reading to learn more about safety regulations in several states concerning footwear while driving. Find out why driving barefoot isn’t a good idea and what type of footwear you should and shouldn’t use behind the wheel. Read on!
Driving Barefoot in the United States
If you’re concerned about getting pulled over and fined for not wearing shoes while driving, rest assured that there aren’t any laws against it in the United States! Driving barefoot in every state is perfectly legal, although some states highly discourage it, while others say it’s better than driving with flip-flops.
There are polarizing opinions on whether or not driving barefoot is safe, so let’s see what some states have to say about it.
In Texas, certain cities require you to secure a permit before walking around without footwear, but there are no laws prohibiting you from driving barefoot. However, you can get penalized for driving barefoot if you’re involved in an accident.
It’s not uncommon to see many motorists driving barefoot in the Sunshine State. Given all the beaches in Florida, no one enjoys putting shoes on when they have sand on their feet.
There aren’t laws in Florida governing what type of footwear you should or shouldn’t use while driving. However, according to this site, the lack of footwear can serve as grounds for reckless driving if the responding officer believes it contributed to the accident.
Law enforcement agencies also discourage driving barefoot or wearing flip-flops since the driver’s feet are more prone to sustaining serious injuries in the event of a crash.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation discourages eating, doing personal grooming, and operating the radio while driving, but their website does not mention anything about driving barefoot. Texting while driving is illegal in the Tar Heel State, but driving barefoot is legal.
If you’re in the Big Apple, it’s up to you to go barefoot or choose whatever footwear you want to use while driving. However, keep in mind that New York is one of thirteen states implementing the “pure comparative fault” rule.
The pure comparative fault rule is a provision where each party involved in an accident resulting in physical injury must pay compensation proportional to their degree of fault. So, if the opposing party proves that a lack of footwear while driving contributed to physical damage, they can demand more compensation.
Even if driving barefoot is legal in Ohio, law enforcement can give you a citation for failure to exercise due care if it leads to an accident or impaired driving behavior. So, you’re not necessarily free of legal consequences if authorities believe that the lack of footwear partially caused an accident.
Similar to how adjusting the rearview mirror isn’t illegal, it can serve as a distraction that can get you in trouble. Aside from paying fines and compensation, some insurance companies can deny a claim if due care isn’t exercised.
Like in any other state, it is not illegal to drive barefoot in Tennessee. However, Tennessee allows its municipalities to set their own rules. So, if you’re passing through Tennessee, it would be a good idea to check out the local regulations first.
Law enforcement agencies can also give citations for careless or reckless driving if they feel an accident was caused by improper footwear or the lack of it.
Many people are under the impression that it is illegal to drive barefoot in California, even if there are no laws against it. However, California’s reckless driving laws can cover any behavior deemed to put people or property at risk.
Article 1, section 23103 of the California Vehicle Code states, “A person who drives a vehicle upon a highway in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.”
So, if driving barefoot is proven to impair your ability to control a vehicle, you can be held liable in the event of an accident.
Pennsylvania’s Reckless Driving Statute defines reckless driving the way California does.
Moreover, Title 75, section 3714 of Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes states that, as a general rule, “Any person who drives a vehicle in careless disregard for the safety of persons and property is guilty of careless driving, a summary offense.”
So, barefoot drivers who are found guilty of reckless or careless driving can face criminal and civil penalties.
Georgia has some unique motoring laws like prohibiting horns honking during fairs. My favorite is the “Slowpoke law,” which obligates the driver on the left lane to move to the right lane if there is a fast-approaching vehicle behind, regardless of speed.
Despite all these laws, driving barefoot in Georgia is still perfectly legal, although local authorities discourage it due to the risks involved.
Driving barefoot in Arizona is not illegal, although they do recommend wearing the appropriate footwear to avoid accidents and penalties. Arizona law enforcement officers can apply additional fines for barefoot drivers involved in accidents.
Alabama has some of the strictest driving laws in the country, although it is still legal to operate most vehicles barefoot. What sets Alabama apart is that anyone driving a motorcycle or a motorized bike must wear shoes to prevent injury in the event of an accident.
Law enforcers in Missouri emphasize that driving barefoot is safer than using flip-flops or high heels. However, they also say driving without shoes on is better than driving with wedges, since the wedges are more likely to cause an accident.
Michigan is another state that does not mind barefoot driving. Some members of their traffic division claim it could be argued that the absence of footwear gives the driver even more control of the vehicle, so you probably won’t get into any trouble for driving barefoot in Michigan.
Wisconsin law enforcers seem to have no problem with barefoot driving. According to the Society for Barefoot Living, State Trooper Jim Larson said he would even encourage motorists to drive barefoot instead of using heels or shoes that make driving difficult.
Massachusetts does not ban driving barefoot, although law enforcement reminds motorists to drive with footwear that will not compromise their ability to control the vehicle. Any actions resulting in a potential accident can be penalized since it falls under driving to endanger.
The Hazards of Driving Barefoot
There may be varying opinions on whether or not driving barefoot is safe. Many people claim that they can safely operate a vehicle without footwear, but it’s hard to refute why doing so can be harmful.
Below are some reasons why it is considered unsafe to drive a vehicle barefoot.
- People who drive barefoot usually leave their shoes on the car floor, which can roll around and get wedged under the pedals while the car is in motion.
- During an accident, the absence of footwear leaves the driver’s feet unprotected and more prone to injury.
- Shoes can protect your feet during an accident and as you leave the car after one.
- The smooth texture of the bottom of our foot makes it more likely to slip off the pedal and cause an accident.
- Driving barefoot makes it harder to apply pressure on the pedals, making it risky during instances where intense braking is necessary.
- Your feet can get sore from the force required to use the clutch and brake pedals, not to mention your heel, which sometimes serves as a pivot when you drive.
- Not wearing shoes can lead to penalties, citations, or denied insurance claims if you’re involved in an accident.
- The pedals can inadvertently get wedged between your toes.
What Footwear You Shouldn’t Use While Driving
Driving without footwear may have its share of risks, but some shoes can be equally, if not more, detrimental to your safety. You should carefully consider the type of shoes to wear when you drive because they play a huge factor in ensuring you get to your destination without a hitch.
Below are the shoes you should avoid when getting behind the wheel.
Driving requires a lot of footwork, and flip-flops may not remain fastened to your feet as you move your feet from pedal to pedal. Aside from being a distraction, they can slide off and get wedged under the pedals. Their y-straps can also get caught on the pedal, leading to a loss of control.
Like flip-flops, house slippers do not cling to your feet well, and since they were made primarily for comfort, they offer little to no grip. Slippers can easily get caught on the pedals, which can cause an accident. In an accident, footwear like slippers and flip-flops exposes much of your feet, making them prone to injury.
Our heels act as a pivot as we move our feet while driving. Using high heels puts our feet in an awkward position that may affect pedal feel and put unnecessary strain on our heels and the joint behind the ankles.
Boots are heavy, very stiff, and significantly restrict the movement of our feet. Aside from making it difficult to move around, boots will offer a minimal feel, which makes it harder to modulate the pedals.
Wedges significantly affect your precision since they increase the gap between your feet and the pedals due to their thick soles. Aside from being a distraction, this gap between your foot and pedals will impact how well you can modulate the pedals.
Shoes With Thick or Wide Soles
Any shoes with thick soles will affect pedal feel and precision. On the other hand, shoes with wide soles might cause you to step on the brake and gas pedal simultaneously, which can be catastrophic. You should never wear shoes with wide soles while driving.
The Most Suitable Shoes for Driving
Despite the number of shoes you should avoid using for driving, finding a good pair isn’t that difficult. You can choose any shoe that is comfortable, light, and unrestrictive.
Understandably, the criteria for good driving shoes may not always match the occasion. It’s best to leave a pair of driving shoes in your car, which you can change out of if you’re attending a formal event or business meeting.
Below is footwear that’s suitable for driving:
- Ballerina flats
Sneakers like tennis or running shoes can also be great for driving as long as their soles are not too thick and wide.
Some shoes are made specifically for driving, usually in the form of slip-on moccasins. These shoes are ideal for driving since they are light, comfortable, soft, and have a wrap-around sole that makes it easier to pivot your heel when driving. Aside from making great driving shoes, they are trendy and go well with different clothes.
The Go Tour Men’s Penny Loafers (Amazon) were made for driving comfort. This shoe features a wrap-around sole that protects the shoe, aside from making it easier to pivot your heel when moving your foot from one pedal to another. Its light and soft suede leather construction makes it highly comfortable and fashionable.
Driving barefoot is legal in every state in America, although some states discourage it while others don’t. But just because the law allows it, driving with no footwear isn’t necessarily a good idea. You can’t deny that being barefoot leaves your feet vulnerable to sores and injuries.
Driving barefoot can also merit a citation and make it difficult to win an insurance claim. The risks involved should be enough reason for you to wear shoes behind the wheel.
However, you should avoid wearing shoes that compromise movement and precision. Wearing such shoes might be even worse than driving barefooted.