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Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

Are you wondering if it is illegal to drive barefoot? Driving laws vary according to the state or province. Rules and regulations around what you can and can’t do behind the wheel can sometimes be confusing. Whether it’s talking on the phone or eating a burrito or clipping your fingernails, police and road safety advocates will often point out that anything that distracts a driver’s attention from the road can be an offence that could get you fined, or worse, your car impounded.

There are plenty of myths and misconceptions about driving barefoot being illegal, but it’s not true. Perhaps you heard a story about a friend of a friend who was pulled over while driving without shoes or while wearing flip-flops getting a ticket for being behind the wheel barefoot or in unsafe footwear. These stories are full of hearsay and almost never turn about to be true, of course.

Barefoot driving and careless driving

It’s unclear how the myth about barefoot driving being illegal became so widespread, but it’s been around long enough to warrant many articles online and in newspapers about how it’s not actually illegal to drive with bare feet. While it may be somewhat unsafe to drive while not wearing shoes, you’d be hard-pressed to find any laws, rules, or regulations in any number of jurisdictions outlawing the practice of driving barefoot.

That being said, you need to be careful about being charged with careless driving. If you drive without shoes and get into a motor vehicle accident because you couldn’t apply enough braking force, you might get in trouble for careless driving. There have been a number of cases in places like Quebec, Ontario, and Missouri like this.

While there may not be laws against driving barefoot, it’s still inadvisable and unsafe to drive without proper footwear. According to the insurance firm Geico, wearing the wrong kind of shoes or no shoes at all can pose a significant safety risk due to possible “pedal error” that’s responsible for thousands of crashes every year. Quoting a driver safety expert from the American National Safety Council, the insurance firm points out that wearing high heels or flip-flops can be hazardous and obstructive to proper vehicle operation.

Can you drive without shoes?

According to the driver safety expert, it’s best to wear sneakers or tennis shoes that fit snugly around your feet, with good soles to ensure you can apply proper and even pressure to the gas or brake pedals and allow you to quickly switch between the two. There are also “driving shoes” that were first made for “sports car enthusiasts” that slip on and allow drivers to easily pivot from the gas and brake pedals.

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But there are plenty of types of shoes that don’t mix well with driving, such as flip flops, slippers, wedge-style high heels, work boots, or even cowboy boots. Flip flops and sandals aren’t always secure at the heels of the foot and can come off, possibly becoming stuck under a gas or brake pedal.

House slippers may be comfortable but aren’t ideal for driving due to their lack of traction. Wedges and high heels, meanwhile, can make driving more difficult due to the distance they place between your foot and your car’s pedals and make it hard to gauge the proper amount of pressure to apply when braking or accelerating.

Reckless driving and driving laws

The expert from the National Safety Council also advises against wearing new shoes that haven’t been broken in, while also warning against wearing thick work boots or cowboy boots that can be heavy and obstructive when switching between pedals. As well, being barefoot behind the wheel leaves drivers with “no means to distribute” foot force evenly, while also becoming slippery with sweat that can affect someone’s reaction time.

The Canada Safety Council has its own set of similar recommendations about wearing proper shoes while driving. The council claims people shouldn’t drive in platform or stiletto high heels because they make it “awkward” to switch between pedals. Sandals, according to the council, can cause “painful abrasions” while boots and even some running shoes can be too “restrictive” on a driver’s ankle movement.

According to the council’s recommendations, a shoe’s sole shouldn’t be thicker than two and a half centimetres, nor should it be too thin or soft. Moreover, the council advises against any footwear that has a slippery sole or shoes that are heavy or constrictive and don’t allow for free movement of ankles and knees.

Learn more about the law:

Safe driving and state laws

Despite safety risks posed by certain kinds of footwear (or no footwear at all) while driving, laws don’t generally prohibit or dictate what can and can’t be worn while behind the wheel. But while it’s a common misconception that driving barefoot is illegal in Canada, Europe, and the United States, there are plenty of weird and wacky laws on the books for drivers, especially in America.

For example, it’s illegal in Alabama to wear a blindfold while driving. In Alaska, you can’t tie a dog to your car’s roof. California, at least for a time, didn’t allow women to drive in housecoats or bathrobes. In one region of the state of Delaware, it’s illegal to change clothes inside a vehicle. In Florida, you have to feed a parking meter if you tie up an elephant or an alligator or pet goat, while the state of Massachusetts outlaws driving if you have a gorilla in your backseat.

Staying on the theme of odd animal-related driving laws, it’s illegal to drive without a chaperone if you’re transporting sheep in the state of Montana, while you’re not allowed to ride a camel on a highway in Nevada. The state of Illinois makes it illegal to drive a vehicle that doesn’t have a steering wheel. In one city in New York, it’s illegal to take off your clothes in your car, and the city of Cincinnati, Ohio doesn’t allow taxi drivers to wear shorts after Labour Day until the middle of May. While most states outlaw the practice of shooting animals or hunting from a vehicle, the state of Tennessee allows for people to shoot only whales from a moving car.

Insurance policies and risk of injury

The topic of motorists getting in trouble for not wearing a pair of shoes is a popular urban legend and a driving myth. The topic is popular, with the Globe and Mail even writing an article about it. It’s very unlikely that you will be charged with reckless driving or careless driving. But make sure (just for safety) that you wear the right type of footwear with long laces. You don’t want to increase your risk of injury.

Make sure you follow the Highway Traffic Act and all state laws. While we did not look into it in this article, motorcycle riders probably should wear shoes according to local laws. We also didn’t get into how doing something irresponsible could affect your insurance policies and insurance rates. You better believe that insurance companies will always try to get out of paying out in case of injury.

You should be more concerned about insurance companies instead of police officers. If you have other questions about wearing soled shoes or dress shoes while driving, maybe you can ask a driving instructor. Follow the actual rules of the road, don’t run red lights and have your high beams on at night.

Is it illegal to drive barefoot conclusion

You won’t find any laws on the books outlawing the practice of driving barefoot, but just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t make it safe. As both the National Safety Council and the Canada Safety Council point out, proper footwear that doesn’t run the risk of slipping off a pedal and becoming jammed underneath is a driver’s safest bet.

While driving barefoot might be comfortable and not expressly illegal, it might be a step in the wrong direction when it comes to safe driving. We hope you found this guide on if it’s illegal to drive barefoot helpful.