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driving barefoot california law

It’s a commonly held belief by many Californians that it’s illegal to drive without shoes on. However, the simple answer is that, no, it’s not actually against the law to drive barefoot. That being said, it doesn’t mean that foregoing shoes whilst behind the wheel is a good idea. 

There are, in fact, no federal or state laws that indicate that you have to wear footwear when you’re operating a vehicle on Californian roads. Of course, the Golden State is a place where it’s very normal for people to go without wearing shoes. There are beaches everywhere, so it’s obvious why you may not want to don sandy shoes when you get back into a car. Luckily, if you do choose to drive without shoes on, you won’t be breaking any California laws, but the risks could still be imminent. 


Is it Dangerous to Drive Barefoot?

There might not be any laws or regulations stopping you from driving without shoes on, but just because it isn’t illegal doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a smart idea. There are actually a number of risks involved when driving with bare feet. 

The most obvious being that shoes protect your feet and keep them from getting injured. You might think no injury can occur to your shoeless feet while you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle, and in most circumstances, you might be right. However, continuously driving without shoes requires that you apply a significant amount of pressure to the pedals, particularly if you drive a vehicle that is not automatic. Over time this can actually cause some pain due to the uneven pressure and the force required to suppress a clutch. 

Additionally, there is an increased risk of injury to your feet caused by glass or debris. If you hurt yourself while driving, this can also be a potential distraction and cause an accident

The most serious danger, though, is that shoes allow your feet to better grip the pedals. If you aren’t wearing footwear, there’s a much higher probability that your foot will slip off the pedal. This can have extremely serious consequences if your foot slips off the brake at the wrong time. Without shoes on, the driver simply cannot apply the same force to the brake pedal as they would be able to with shoes on. 


Can I Take My Shoes Off While I’m Driving?

It’s also not technically illegal to remove your shoes while driving. However, it’s never a good idea to put yourself in a distracting situation. While it might be tempting to remove uncomfortable footwear while stopped at a red light, you should probably avoid doing so. There’s far too high of a risk that the process will cause a distraction, or cause the shoe to get caught underneath a pedal, which can easily lead to an accident. While the act of removing the footwear isn’t illegal, if an accident occurs because of it, you may be liable for distracted driving.


Are There Consequences for Driving Without Proper Footwear?

Since it’s not actually illegal to drive barefoot or remove your shoes while driving, there are no consequences for doing so. However, if you cause an accident because you chose to drive without appropriate footwear, there may be legal consequences. Collisions or incidents caused because of barefoot driving are likely to be considered a form of distracted driving. This means that, while a police officer may not be able to cite you for not wearing shoes, they can charge you for reckless or negligent driving. 

Having a charge like this on your record certainly isn’t good news. There’s a good chance you will see your insurance premiums skyrocket or even loss of coverage depending on the severity of the case. Depending on the incident, distracted or negligent driving charges can be very serious, and certainly should not be taken lightly. There could be dire legal consequences for causing an accident due to distraction. 


Types of Footwear to Avoid When Driving

While driving barefoot can be a hazard, other types of footwear might actually be worse. In sunny California, driving barefoot isn’t the only safety concern. Understandably, there are many individuals who choose to operate a vehicle in footwear made for the beach rather than driving a car. All too often, the dangers of inappropriate footwear simply go unforeseen by drivers. 

Sandals or, in particular, flip-flops, can actually put a driver in an even scarier predicament than no shoes at all. This is because sandals and flip flops often provide little to no grip on the pedals. Flip flops have a tendency to easily slip off your foot and get caught underneath the vehicle’s pedals. This can prevent the driver from sufficiently compressing the brake, which in turn can lead to a very dangerous accident. Flip flops also don’t provide adequate ankle support, and the pedal can easily get caught between the driver’s foot and the sole of the flip flop, which significantly limits the amount of control the driver has over the vehicle. 

Flip flops aren’t the only shoe to avoid when behind the wheel. There are other types of footwear that pose equally worrisome dangers, such as platform shoes, wedges,  high heels, and shoes with very smooth soles. High heels or wedges are particularly dangerous, as they keep the heel of your foot well-above the floor. The pedals of a car are designed to work with the heel of the driver’s foot in contact with the floor. Without that contact, heels or wedges can slow down the time it takes to brake, as well as distort the driver’s perception of how much pressure they need to apply. 

Because of the dangers associated with wearing inappropriate footwear to drive, it’s a good idea to keep a suitable pair of shoes in the car. That way, if you are wearing heels or find yourself in shoes that aren’t ideal for operating a vehicle, you can easily change shoes. 

To prevent accidents from occurring due to something trivial such as the wrong footwear choice, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Ensuring you wear the correct shoes while driving will significantly decrease your odds of causing an accident. Appropriate shoes should have a sole that is neither too thick nor too thin, approximately 10mm is ideal. They should also provide adequate grip, not limit ankle movement, and should never be so wide that they can potentially compress two pedals at once. 

If you find yourself in an accident caused by a negligent, distracted, or reckless driver, the car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates are here to help. For more information or to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.


Contact an Experienced California Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as you may be entitled to compensation. The Orange County auto accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates can then help determine if you have a valid personal injury claim. With multiple offices located in Irvine, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego, and Riverside, our car accident injury attorneys represent accident victims across Southern California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.