You may not be able to walk into a McDonald's in bare feet, but you can drive there without shoes.
Driving a car barefoot is legal in all 50 states. While the risks of barefoot driving are debatable, the practice is not illegal, though most people assume that it is.
Back when the Web was young, Jason R. Heimbaugh wrote to all 50 states asking about their laws regarding barefoot driving. The responses were pretty interesting. Even though each state confirmed barefoot driving was legal, many strongly discouraged it. Ohio even wrote the warning into its law: "Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted but not recommended."
Nothing appears to have changed in the decades since; a search of the AAA Digest of Motor Laws finds no mention of footwear.
While shoeless driving may not break a law, it may not be very smart.
Bare feet can easily slip off the pedals or even make drivers more likely to miss the pedals, says Jennifer Coats, spokesperson for the Berkeley, Calif., Police Department. Bare feet do not have the same braking force as shoes and in an emergency situation, every second counts. And bare feet are much more likely to be cut or burned from broken glass and fire.
Barefoot driving itself is not a crime, but a reckless or negligent driving charge could result if your bare feet -- or other choice of footwear -- were somehow responsible for an accident. It could certainly be a factor in determining fault for the collision and who makes the car insurance claim.
All for the pleasure of airing your tootsies.
The right shoe for your right foot
There are no statistics about barefoot driving. But surveys about footwear seem to indicate that the wrong shoe can be worse than no shoe at all.
NMRA, an insurance company in Australia, surveyed 1,000 drivers and found a whopping 60 percent were cruising in flip-flops or stiletto heels -- and 38 percent said they have had a shoe come off prior to an accident.
Sheilas' Wheels, a British insurer, found that 80 percent of female drivers were wearing "inappropriate" footwear when driving -- flip-flops, high heels and bare feet. One in 10 of the respondents reported a car crash or a near miss due to their footwear.
Women are not the only ones hitting the road in dangerous shoes. Confused.com, another British online car insurer, found that 27 percent of men wore flip-flops behind the wheel, 22 percent were barefoot and believe it or not, 10 percent were driving in slippers.
The shoes you drive in can greatly affect the control you have over your vehicle.
- Flip-flops offer zero heel support, tend to slip off and can become wedged under a pedal, which can be a major distraction as a driver tries to slip the shoe back on.
- High heels elevate the heel of the foot and distort a driver's ability to gauge the pressure being put on the pedals.
- Wedges and extra wide shoes also make it hard to gauge pedal pressure and can become wedged behind the brake or gas pedal.
These feet were made for driving
Clearly barefoot driving is less dangerous than many other things drivers do behind the wheel.
Driving barefoot, writes Dave Tweed with the Society for Barefoot Living, gives a driver "more awareness of the car in general, and of the pedals in particular. There is less chance of hitting the wrong pedal and finer control of accelerator and brake. In addition, barefooting is much more comfortable."
Author Cynthia MacGregor always drives barefoot.
"I not only feel more comfortable barefoot but more surefooted on the pedals," she says. However, MacGregor has had more than one close call.
"I was driving and had come to a red light, but when I stepped on the brake nothing happened because my sandal had rolled under the pedal," she recalls. "Thankfully there was no traffic coming. I kicked the shoe from under the brake pedal and finally regained control of the car."
If you insist on driving barefoot:
- Keep a pair of sneakers in the car for driving
- Put your shoes on the passenger side to prevent them from rolling under the pedals
- Do not drive barefoot with wet feet. They are more likely to slip off the pedals.
- Never Armor-All your pedals; it makes them as slippery as ice.