August 28, 2020 | Kentucky Law
If you have ever found yourself heading back from the beach or excitedly removing your shoes after a long day on your feet, you may have considered driving barefoot. Although a seemingly harmless action, removing your shoes behind the wheel can present unexpected hazards to your safety and other drivers’ safety. Abiding by federal and state regulations, and practicing safe driving, can help prevent accidents and injuries.
There are many standard safety precautions for operating a motor vehicle, including wearing a seatbelt, not driving under the influence, and using headlights when appropriate. There are also long-standing beliefs by the general public that proper attire should be worn while operating a vehicle. In addition to avoiding any headwear or clothing that would obstruct vision, shoes are a primary consideration when safely driving a car.
How Does Footwear Impact Driving Safety?
For generations, urban legends have been declaring that proper footwear will protect you from a crash and prevent you from being cited for reckless driving. Operating a vehicle while barefoot can make a driver more susceptible to their feet slipping from the pedals, particularly if their car does not have rubberized coverings. Additionally, there are several other styles of footwear that can impact a driver’s control. Some footwear may put drivers at a higher risk than going barefoot.
Flip-flops are usually the first style of shoe to face criticism under standard safety procedures. The design of these shoes allows for flexibility, and their soft composition can quickly become jammed between surfaces. Flip-flops can easily flip up beneath the pedals or slide off of your foot while attempting to brake. Should one of them come off your foot while driving, it may fold up underneath a pedal and prevent you from properly operating it.
Open-toed shoes can also be hazardous as the pedal may become stuck between your feet and the sole of the shoe. Like flip-flops, sandals and other open-toed designs are typically more flexible and allow more items to get lodged beneath your feet. Additionally, they are more likely to flip off should your foot hit the pedals at a certain angle. Although open-toed shoes can be more stable than flip-flops, drivers should remain cautious about driving with this selected footwear.
Although a staple of many wardrobes, high heels pose a more significant threat to driver safety than most might consider. The structure of these shoes changes your foot’s shape, which can alter the way you engage with the pedals. The platform elevation can impact mobility, and stilettos can quickly become wedged within your vehicle’s hardware. If you have limited options, you might consider driving barefoot over wearing high heels while operating a motor vehicle.
Can I Be Cited for Wearing Improper Footwear?
Driver safety is essential to law enforcement agencies across the nation. However, it is not illegal to drive barefoot or with improper footwear. While there are no state laws that mandate a particular shoe style to be worn to operate a motor vehicle, law enforcement strongly recommends proper attire to prevent distraction. Although it is unlikely, should you get into an accident, an officer may assert that you were demonstrating negligence for improper footwear.
Although state authorities have not explicitly banned driving barefoot, some cities and municipalities may have their own regulations. If your local area of residence does not specifically mention prohibiting barefoot driving, they will default to state and federal law. If you doubt whether your municipality permits driving barefoot, you should verify with your local authorities before taking any risks.
How Do I Prevent an Accident?
Anyone operating a motor vehicle should always abide by federal and local driving regulations. This means refraining from driving under the influence, wearing a seatbelt, limiting distractions, and following the rules of the road.
There are a few additional precautions you might consider when driving with potentially hazardous footwear:
- Keep an extra pair of shoes in the car to change into
- Do not drive barefoot if your feet are wet, especially if your pedals do not have a rubberized padding
- If you remove your shoes, place them on the passenger side to prevent them from interfering with your pedals
- If your only options are flip-flops, high heels, or open-toed shoes, consider whether it is safest to drive barefoot
Although driving barefoot may not be illegal in the state of Kentucky, safety standards recommend that proper foot attire be worn while operating a motor vehicle. As long as you drive safely and abide by state laws, your choice in footwear should not cause problems. However, an officer can still determine that your footwear was the cause of an accident. No matter which pair of shoes you decide to wear on the road, you should always practice safe driving and abide by local and federal laws.