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Were These Shoes Made for Driving?

The following post is part of our Law Student Blog Writing Project, and is authored by Linda Long, a Juris Doctor student at the NKU Salmon P. Chase College of Law.

Were These Shoes Made for Driving?

woman_wearing_red_flip_flopsWhen you think of appropriate driving footwear, you may think that if you’re pulled over and don’t have it that you’re in big trouble. But what is appropriate? Do we all believe a misconception about footwear and what is legal for us to wear when we’re driving? Continue reading for a closer look and to determine if your shoes were made for driving.

What the states say about appropriate driving footwear

Neither state nor federal laws expressly prohibit driving a car barefoot. However, there is a concern about how safely a driver can operate a vehicle without shoes or with the “wrong” shoes. The age old idea of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” is apparent in some concerns that lawmakers across the country have on this issue.

Other than driving barefoot, driving while wearing flip flops is also an area of concern with lawmakers and law enforcement in different states. For example, although there is no law against wearing flip flops, bare feet, or any other type of shoes, the Virginia DMV strongly discourages having unsafe footwear while operating a vehicle.  Virginia DMV Commissioner says, “Our customer service representatives who conduct road tests have seen flip flops and sandals come off and get stuck under the gas or brake pedal. Fortunately, we have not had any tragic situations, but that is what we are trying to prevent.”

Read more about this topic at http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattle911/2010/07/23/is-it-illegal-to-drive-barefoot-or-with-flip-flops.

In contrast, California is very lax in what it requires drivers to wear on their feet. I found it odd that California allows even motorcyclists to legally operate their bikes barefoot. California, like other states, does not recommend that motorcyclists ride this way, but as the California Highway Patrol Spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, “We obviously don’t recommend it, but there is no law against it.”

In Kentucky, it is not illegal for a driver to operate his or her car while not wearing shoes. So, Kentucky is not unique in that regard. As it applies to motorcyclists the Kentucky State Police’s website describes what appropriate gear is, and the “right gear” only includes this: an approved helmet; face or eye protection; and protective clothing.

Although there is some suggestion of what boots and shoes would make a ride on a motorcycle safer, there is still no requirement to wear shoes while riding a motorcycle or driving a car. So, are there any laws at all that would require a driver to wear shoes when operating a motor vehicle? In Ohio, driving barefoot is legal, but not recommended. https://ahcuah.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/convicted-for-barefoot-driving/

Further, the motor vehicle division in Ohio has said:
“It is legal to drive barefoot in Ohio. However, we do recommend that shoes be worn when operating a motor vehicle in our state.” http://www.lawyers-plus.com/is-it-illegal-to-drive-barefoot/

So what does all of this mean for you? It means that you are able to drive with flip flops, heels, sneakers, boots, or with no shoes at all., but every states wants you to be safe.

Recommendations

Writer Mark Vallet suggests:

  • Keep a pair of sneakers in the car with you
  • 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 http://www.nasdaq.com/article/is-barefoot-driving-legal-cm246451

Long story, short? Be comfortable, but be safe out there!