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Can you kick off those high heels before taking the wheel?
My best friend in high school loved driving while barefoot. Blaming either the Texas heat or the heels she claimed could get stuck under the gas pedal, she always opted to drive without any shoes. Driving barefoot was a habit that seemed more quirky than rebellious. Fred Flintstone drove barefoot. So did SpongeBob Squarepants. No one ever told us not to drive barefoot during driver’s ed, and the lack of footwear didn’t seem to impact her driving skills.
Is it illegal to drive barefoot?
Was driving while barefoot illegal? My friend admitted that she didn’t know. Not wanting to take any chances with the Texas Highway Patrol, she always drove with a pair of sandals under her seat in case she got pulled over. After all, no one wants to take defensive driving! As it turns out, she wasn’t alone—driving barefoot seems to be a guilty pleasure shared by many despite the confusion around its legality.
The only thing I think about while driving barefoot pic.twitter.com/0vtHrM2GRY
— Tim Good (@Tgood129) August 15, 2017
Driving barefoot, Listening to classic rock, and eating chicken nuggets while stuck in traffic 🙂
— Morgan Hall (@Mo_Haycook) August 4, 2017
It'll be hard for my to give up shoes sha. Because the only times I'm everrrr barefoot are in my bed, in the shower, while driving. EVER
— Skittles (@getalifeaisha) August 1, 2017
Are there state laws that require drivers to wear shoes?
So, will barefoot driving get you a big, fat ticket? Will they make you take a defensive driving course? There appear to be no state laws that require drivers to wear shoes.
Driving while barefoot is legal in all 50 states, according to the Society for Barefoot Living.
Some states even go as far as to recommend driving barefoot over wearing precarious high heels, unreliable flip-flops, or heavy footwear that could add extra pressure to the gas pedal.
“It actually is legal to drive barefoot or with flip-flops,” Officer Raymus Payton at the Westminster California Highway Patrol office told the Orange County Register. “I’ve pulled over quite a few people, and I’ve seen some pretty interesting shoes—like very high heels or platforms—and they’d probably be better off driving barefoot than in those shoes.”
Michigan State Police even lists illegal barefoot driving as a top traffic urban legend on their website.
“There is nothing in the Michigan Vehicle Code that prohibits barefoot driving. Careless or reckless driving would really be a stretch, as an argument could be made that a barefoot person has more control over the pedals,” writes the Michigan State Police.
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Why you should still be careful while driving barefoot
Although kicking your shoes off behind the wheel may make you feel carefree, you should still be on guard. If a barefoot driver gets into an accident or is pulled over by a less-than-understanding cop, their lack of shoes won’t help their case. The traffic cop could still cite you for negligent driving if you get into an accident while driving barefoot.
“So although to drive barefoot is not, in and of itself, against the law, if your failure to wear something on your feet while driving is the cause of an accident, the lack of a law prohibiting barefoot driving will not be a defense,” writes personal injury attorney Zach Parry. “Whether you drive with our without your shoes on, be careful, and never drive in a way that poses undue risks to yourself or others.”
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Amrita Khalid is a technology and politics reporter who specializes in breaking down complex issues into practical, useful terms. A former contributor to CQ, a Congressional news and analysis site, she's currently a master's candidate in international relations at the University of Leeds.