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Is it Illegal to Drive Barefoot?

By Holly South | Last updated on

Is it illegal to drive barefoot? This question typically is on drivers' minds during the summer months. Maybe your driver's education teacher or parents drilled the illegality of driving shoeless into your brain as a teen. But the fact is that it's a complete urban legend that comes from the safety concerns associated with barefoot driving.

No federal or state laws prohibit driving a car without shoes. But local jurisdictions may also put their feet down when it comes to driving barefoot. For example, in Tennessee, their policy states that local regulations may prohibit driving without a pair of shoes. Certain states also have guidelines written into their driving laws about driving without shoes or other types of footwear. This is the case in Indiana and Iowa, where their state policies say that driving with a lack of shoes, while legal, is formally considered unsafe.

Driving Safety

While driving a car barefoot may technically be legal, law enforcement officers generally don't recommend it because of safety concerns. For example:

  • Driving barefoot could make it harder to drive.
  • Your discarded footwear could also possibly get stuck under your car's pedals, making it harder to brake or accelerate.

In addition, if you get in an accident, you could possibly be cited for reckless driving if a police officer determines that being barefoot somehow contributed to the crash. Laws in Arizona, Arkansas, California, and Nevada reflect this.

The same goes for high-heels and flip-flops. While they are footwear, and therefore not illegal to drive with, it depends on how well you can drive while wearing them. If you know that flip-flops impair your ability to drive, then maybe switch them out for Birkenstocks. Some say that both types of shoes lower the support in your ankle to slam on the brake pedal in an emergency. But many people will agree that driving shoeless is a safer option than driving with these types of shoes.

Can You Ride Motorcycles Barefoot?

But state laws may be different for other types of motor vehicles, like motorcycles. Some states do explicitly require footwear — not just for drivers, but for passengers as well. For example, Alabama law states that "No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle unless he is wearing shoes."

Other states like California, however, do allow motorcyclists to go barefoot. "We obviously don't recommend it, but there's no law against it," a California Highway Patrol spokesman told the Los Angeles Times.

What Happens to Your Insurance?

When it comes to your car insurance coverage, you should be okay, because it is not against the law to drive barefoot. However, as with tickets, if you were involved in a car accident and it's proven that your barefoot driving was one of the factors, your auto insurance company may deny your claim. You could also lose a personal injury lawsuit if you hurt someone else in the accident.

While state laws may not make it illegal to drive barefoot, local lawmakers may enact laws against it. Check with your local jurisdiction, or consult an attorney to make sure it's legal to put the pedal to the metal without putting on your shoes.

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