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Many of us remember learning that it is illegal to drive barefoot, so it may be a surprise to discover this is untrue. It is not illegal to drive barefoot in any state in the U.S., although some recommend against it. This urban legend has been around for many years, but we’re here to share what the law really says and provide some insights on the best (and worst) footwear for driving.
In the 90s, a man named Jason Heimbaugh wrote to the motor vehicle department in each state asking if it was illegal to drive barefoot. Though it took some time to get a response from all 50 states, he eventually did — and all advice regarding driving without shoes.
Is it illegal to drive barefoot in any state?
In many states, driving barefoot is generally considered an unsafe practice. Additionally, some individual cities or towns may have laws against it, so it may be simplest to avoid driving barefoot as a general practice. While most states do not specifically address barefoot driving, a few states have taken a specific stance on barefoot driving, either against or in favor, as outlined below.
|State||Policies or recommendations|
|Alabama||Driving a motor vehicle barefoot is permitted but motorcycle riders must wear some type of footwear.|
|Alaska||Driving a motor vehicle barefoot is not illegal but motorcyclists should wear proper footwear.|
|Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada||It is not illegal to drive barefoot but you could be charged with reckless driving or face civil fines if driving barefoot contributes to an accident.|
|Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Wyoming||While it is not illegal to drive barefoot, it is formally considered unsafe.|
|Michigan||Some believe a driver may have more control over the car when driving barefoot than with some shoes.|
|Tennessee||Though barefoot driving is not illegal, local regulations could prohibit it.|
|Utah||Although it is not illegal in Utah, the state’s Highway Patrol suggests that wearing shoes makes it easier and safer to operate your vehicle.|
|Virginia||While not illegal, barefoot driving is not encouraged. Instead, drivers should wear safe footwear without an open heel.|
|Wisconsin||According to the state’s Department of Transportation, driving without shoes is legal.|
Why do people think it is illegal to drive barefoot?
Like many urban legends or misconceptions, it is unclear where the myth that driving barefoot is illegal started. Since most people drive with shoes, it may be that it was just generally accepted that footwear is required for driving. In fact, you may have learned in driver’s education that driving with proper footwear is safer. Making safe driving choices is the one of the best ways to avoid an accident and that includes considering your choice of footwear.
Is driving barefoot dangerous?
While it is not illegal to drive barefoot, the safety risk in doing so is why some states recommend driving with proper shoes. Here are a few things to consider about the potential safety risk of driving barefoot:
- Bare feet may slide off the pedal more easily than with shoes, especially when wet.
- You may not be able to apply the same braking force in bare feet as you can while wearing a pair of shoes.
- It could be considered distracted driving, especially if driving barefoot causes an accident. You could also be ticketed if a police officer suspects driving barefoot was the cause.
- In the event of an accident or other incident, bare feet leave you at additional risk of injury, and could limit your ability to retreat to safety quickly.
Are some shoes more dangerous than driving barefoot?
There are arguments that suggest it may be safer to drive barefoot than drive wearing certain types of footwear that could impede driving like flip flops or high heels. However, there are a handful of states and localities that could cite you for reckless driving or negligence if they are able to determine that barefoot driving caused an accident.
If a shoe affects the way you use the pedals or reduces your ability to gauge how hard to press down, you may want to reconsider your footwear.
Driving while wearing some of these common shoe types could also be considered dangerous:
- Open-toed shoes like flip flops or sandals
- Open heeled sandals
- High heels and wedge heels
- Thick soled boots or shoes
- Shoes with long laces
- Shoes without traction or with slippery soles
- Slip on shoes
For the best control while driving to regulate speed or braking, it is recommended to wear shoes with no heel or a low heel. The shoe should also have good tread with traction or some grip. The shoes should not be so thick that you have trouble controlling the pedals.
Close toed shoes are better than open toed shoes since gaps can cause your shoe to catch on the pedal. Shoes with long laces can be hazardous as the laces could get looped around the pedal. If you want to wear any of the shoes listed above, it is a good idea to bring a safe pair of shoes along to just wear while you are driving to your destination.