Is it illegal to drive barefoot?


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UPDATED: 2021-09-07T20:29:21.732Z
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A photo of the gas pedal of a car with someone driving it.

When you were learning to drive, did your parents or kindly older siblings ever tell you that it’s illegal to drive barefoot?

While there is a widespread belief that driving without shoes can land you in legal hot water, this is actually a myth. The words “one’s bare foot shall not touch the brake and accelerator of motor vehicles” aren’t written in the laws of any state (much less inscribed in federal law).

But while not technically against the law, there are some bumps in the road when it comes to the prospect of driving barefoot.

Even though driving barefoot is legal, is it safe? In this short guide, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about driving barefoot, from its legality to your insurance company's perspective to your safety.

Before we answer your question of is it illegal to drive barefoot, use our free car insurance comparison tool to find the best car insurance company in your area. Just enter your ZIP code to see the comparison for your area.

Beliefs Around Barefoot Driving

Ask someone if they believe driving barefoot is illegal. Most people will say yes but will not explain why (depending on where you live). But as for those believers in the phantom law against barefoot driving? The origins of the myth that driving barefoot is illegal are unknown.

One possible explanation is that people have a fundamental mindset that going barefoot in public is socially unacceptable in America. Therefore, it would only make sense that driving with shoes is an undeniable responsibility.

Perhaps it’s just an old wives’ tale that’s been passed down through the generations.

To most, driving barefoot just feels illegal.

Are you tempted to hop behind the wheel sans shoes, freed from your prior misconceptions? Don’t unlace your sneakers just yet. Just because driving barefoot is legal doesn’t mean it’s safe.

The Risks of Driving Barefoot

There are risks in everything — everyday activities like bike riding, working out, and cooking can all lead to injury. Driving without shoes is one of those seemingly innocent tasks.

There’s this odd bliss to driving without shoes, and there are many reasons why people do it. For some, there is simply a sense of freedom and defiance in the simple act of driving barefoot. Whether your new knowledge of the law emboldens you, or you’re simply in a hurry, there are scenarios you must consider when deciding if driving barefoot is, in fact, safe.

Here are some scenarios where driving barefoot could result in injury or accident:

  • You’re unable to apply sufficient pressure to the clutch with your bare foot
  • Repeatedly pressing the pedals with your barefoot results in a cramp or foot spasm, making it difficult to maintain control of your car
  • Your wet or sweaty foot slips from the intended pedal, causing unexpected acceleration or deceleration
  • You’re in an accident for unrelated reasons, and your feet are left unprotected

And keep in mind that while driving barefoot is not illegal, some police officers may see your lack of footwear and consider it reckless driving, resulting in a fine, ticket, or points on your license.

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Driving Barefoot: Cars vs. Motorcycles

Operating a car versus a motorcycle is drastically different, but the requirement by law is to have licenses for each form of transportation.

None of the 50 states have written a point-blank that the car driver must be wearing shoes. However, some police officers see the lack of footwear and consider it reckless driving, resulting in a fine or ticket. This could end up on your driving record and, don't forget that a clean driving record is the best way to get the cheapest car or motorcycle insurance rates.

The other possibility is having points added to your driver’s license. But of all the 50 states, only Alabama requires footwear when operating a motorcycle.

In the state of Alabama, it is clearly stated, “No person shall ride on or operate a motorcycle or any motor-driven cycle unless he/she is wearing shoes.”

When Shoes Are More Dangerous Than Bare Feet

If you’re sensitive about your feet (or your driving record), these scenarios alone are enough to convince you to lace up. However, keep in mind that driving barefoot may be safer in some cases than wearing shoes.

The one thing drilled into every 16-year-old kid learning to drive for the first time is safety. Professional driving instructors show you how to operate the whole of the car and change a tire, but they may not cover footwear or clothing.

As a result, most people pay little attention to the shoes they throw on before jumping behind the wheel of a car. Believe it or not, there are types and styles of shoes that could potentially be more hazardous to your driving than no shoes at all.

The following shoes may cause more harm than good when getting behind the wheel:

  • High heels – When you press down on the pedal, the back of the shoe may not flatten enough, causing you to press on the gas too fast with the top of your foot.
  • Wedges – Heels and wedges can distort the angle and position of your foot, making it awkward to operate the moving vehicle.
  • Flip Flops and sandals – Flip flops and loose sandals can fall off when switching between the brake and the accelerator.
  • Slippers – Like your flip flops, your cozy slippers are prone to shift. When you’re driving, that’s the last thing you want.

Wearing unsuitable shoes can also lead to distraction. When wearing more loose-fitting shoes such as flip flops or slippers, you run the risk of that footwear falling off while driving.

Putting all your focus on getting your shoe back on can have disastrous outcomes. In the few seconds it takes to get the shoe back on, collisions could occur.

So what should you wear to drive? The consensus of suitable driving footwear is flat bottom shoes. In some cases, depending on what shoes go with your outfit for the day, it may be a safer choice to drive barefoot. Better yet, keep an extra pair of tennis shoes in the car just in case.

Car Insurers’ Perspective on Barefoot Driving

While not illegal, many states will distribute fines or tickets to the individual responsible for an accident if they lack footwear. The logic? Improper footwear may have been a factor in the accident.

And if local law enforcement takes issue with your choice of footwear, you can guess your insurance company will, too. After all, safety is an insurance company’s top priority. Most companies advise against the use of a motor vehicle with proper footwear.

Now, you won’t necessarily lose your insurance if you’re in a shoe-free collision. However, keep in mind that your auto insurance rates can rise once you’ve been in an accident.

Luckily there are a few ways to lower your rate after being in an accident:

  • Updating your coverage
  • Improving your credit
  • Increasing your deductible

As you already know, there are inherent risks to driving a car — and your footwear can definitely play a role in mitigating them. While there are some potential perks to driving barefoot (especially if your other option is heels), the ideal driving footwear has a flat sole.

But whatever you choose to wear in your car, adequate insurance should be a part of your safety plan. We can help you find the best solution for your insurance needs, no matter what kind of shoes you wear. Enter your ZIP code to get a free car or motorcycle insurance quote, and make sure you’re covered from head to toe!

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