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Is it Illegal to Drive Barefoot?

Is barefoot driving legal
Is it illegal to drive barefoot? The quick answer is no, it’s not illegal — it’s perfectly legal to drive barefoot on the road both in Canada and the US.

But how did this misconception come about?

The Misconceptions

Plenty of people believe that driving barefoot is illegal. However, as we’ve established, it’s perfectly legal to do so; no law bans driving without footwear. The origin of this myth is simple: many people believe that it’s illegal for no particular reason other than that most people don’t drive barefoot.

On top of that, authorities generally discourage driving without shoes on, but discourage doesn’t equate to ban or illegality — it’s simply a safety guideline.

An interesting take here is that some people believe, when you get into an accident and authorities find no shoes on, you’ll be cited for reckless driving. Again, this is a misconception. If you’re cited for reckless driving solely because of the lack of footwear, it will be an incorrect citation, which you can challenge in court. But if you’re truly driving recklessly, then information about your footwear can be an added factor.

Legal Barefoot Driving

Every US state deems barefoot driving legal. However, many of them discourage the practice. On top of that, local municipalities have the right to prohibit barefoot driving if they want. Some US states, though, have varying opinions on barefoot driving:

  • Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, and Wyoming: these states don’t consider it illegal to drive barefoot but they deem it very unsafe.
  • Kansas and Missouri: these states not only allow barefoot driving; they also remind people that driving without footwear is safer than driving with flip flops or high heels. They also consider wedges to be more dangerous than barefoot driving.
  • Michigan: Michigan doesn’t consider barefoot driving illegal or unsafe. Driving barefoot gives the driver more control over the vehicle, according to them.
  • Ohio: In Ohio, if you’re involved in an accident and authorities have reason to believe your being shoeless contributed, you’ll be cited for “failure to exercise due care.”

Mind Your Safety

While driving barefoot is not going to get you in trouble, misconceptions about it generally center around the safety of the driver and passengers. And that’s not necessarily baseless, since driving barefoot can pose risks, such as the following:

  • Braking: driving barefoot doesn’t give you the same brake force as wearing a solid and proper pair of shoes.
  • Slippage: your feet can slip off the pedals more easily compared to boots and high-traction shoes. The opposite is true when wearing slick-bottomed shoes like dress shoes or high heels.
  • Open-toed shoes: open-toed shoes can get hung up on or under the pedals. This keeps your foot from properly pressing down.
  • Close-toed shoes: if the close-toed, low-heeled shoe has long laces to loop around the pedal, it can hamper foot movement.
  • Local ordinances: as mentioned above, local governments can impose prohibitions on driving barefoot. So if you’re unsure whether your municipality allows it, it’s safer — both in terms of driving and law adherence — to wear proper footwear when driving.
  • Insurance: if your shoeless driving contributed to an accident, your insurance company may decline your claim payout. Sometimes, such incidents can affect your premium if your provider considers the situation as dangerous driving. In extreme cases, they can invalidate your insurance. Know your insurance policy terms and common reasons for claims denial.

Benefits of Driving Barefoot

On the other hand, advocates of driving barefoot cite the following benefits:

  • Comfort: driving barefoot is more comfortable than with shoes. Discomfort may lead to distraction, which may lead to unpleasant surprises.
  • Feel of the road: the lack of footwear gives people a better feel of the road and the car’s engine.
  • Pedal grip: your soles naturally have more grip than thick leather soles or other types of slick materials. Keep in mind, however, that water and moisture can cause slippage.

These benefits aren’t always true for every driver. By far, the risks outweigh the benefits of barefoot driving. As a result, it’s greatly recommended to use proper footwear when driving — safety first!

What to Wear?

When choosing footwear for driving, remember these basic guidelines:

  • The shoes’ soles shouldn’t be thicker than 10mm.
  • The soles must not be too thick or thin.
  • The shoes must have enough grip to prevent slippage.
  • Your shoes shouldn’t limit your ankle movement.
  • The shoes shouldn’t be too heavy.

What’s Illegal while driving?

While driving barefoot isn’t illegal, the following mishaps are illegal in many states and other countries:

  • Driving with one headlight: driving with one headlight puts you at risk of losing visibility if the working light goes out while you’re in motion. In London, the penalty is a £100 fine (approximately $140). According to the Highway Code, all lights, indicators, number plates, and reflectors must be clean and clear.
  • Driving with an expired license: it’s illegal to drive with an expired license. Punishments can reach up to £1000, along with three to six penalty points on your license. If you’re a persistent offender, the police can dispose of your vehicle.
  • Driving with headphones: driving while wearing headphones is illegal in many US states, such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Georgia, and a few more others. Meanwhile, some states prohibit headphones but allow communication devices and speakers built into motorcycle helmets. Check your state’s laws.
  • Driving without insurance: driving without insurance is illegal in all US states except Alaska and New Hampshire.
  • DUI: DUIs are universally frowned upon as it’s dangerous not only for the driver in question but also his passengers and other people on the road. As such, it’s illegal. In Canada, it’s a highly serious offense that can result in driving suspension, vehicle impounding, and arrest.
  • Driving with people or animals on your lap: in Australia, children must always be seated in proper restraints. Pets and other animals should be seated or restrained as well. Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, if an animal is injured in a car because it was unrestrained, the owners can face six months in jail and a $5,500 fine.

With these laws in mind, you’ll be better able to navigate the road without problems. Overall, driving barefoot may not be illegal, but safety should come first when you’re behind the wheel.

If you have more questions about bylaws and how they affect you, feel free to visit our Bylaws page.

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