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Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

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Updated 11 Oct 2019

Rachel White

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There have been times where I’ve caught lifts with friends, only to jump in the car and be left wondering if I would make it to the destination. Seeing the 3-inch platform heels of the driver somehow navigate the car's pedals was a nerve-wracking experience. Yet somehow I am here to tell the tale.

When stuck in those death-defying moments it leaves you wondering about the laws around footwear and driving. It’s an interesting topic and when I asked colleagues they had various responses, based on assumption, and were keen to know the actual regulations. Interesting to note they had a preference to bare feet, thongs or light footwear over chunky shoes as the preferred driving footwear.

What is considered safe footwear?

The authorities suggest we drive in a pair of properly fitted shoes. That means ones that don’t slip off the foot and provide some grip on the pedals. I guess that has its merits. There is no point slamming the foot on the brake to only have a shoe slide off the brake pedal and continue through to the firewall as the car hits the object you were braking to avoid. The airbag isn’t going to be much good when you’re half falling off the seat following that dodgy shoe.

When footwear causes an accident

If you are not in proper control of a vehicle and have an accident due to your choice of footwear, then you can get into trouble with the law, be fined and made to deal with whatever extent the law goes to. That is the case for any footwear choice, be it barefoot, high heels or work boots. Inappropriate footwear can put you at fault in the event of an accident and can be seen as reckless driving.

Is driving barefoot illegal?

The actual act of driving a passenger vehicle whilst barefoot, in Australia, is not illegal. It is only a legal problem if you are involved in an accident because you were driving barefoot and you were not in proper control of the vehicle. But this clause covers any footwear, not just bare skin. As part of a routine traffic stop, you can not get fined due to driving barefoot.

What if shoes are unsafe?

We are required to drive in the safest manner possible. Sometimes driving barefoot is actually safer than driving in shoes. It is up to the driver to decide on the safest option. If the steel-toed work boots or the 3-inch heels are unsafe to drive in, then take them off and drive barefoot. Sometimes your feet can grip the pedals better than a shoe. Just make sure to put the discarded shoes in the back or in the passenger's footwell. Don’t leave discarded shoes in the driver’s footwell, this can cause an accident. Shoes can get jammed behind, or in the way of pedals.

Reasons not to drive barefoot

Bare feet don’t give you the same contact on the pedal as most flat shoes
The act of braking hard could be more difficult in bare feet, the thought of hurting a foot could cause you not to stop as quickly

For those that already have the seat positioned as far forward as possible, that extra shoe sole height can make a big difference. Being barefoot will mean less reach on the pedal.

So, it’s not illegal to drive barefoot. If there is an increased risk by driving with shoes on then take them off and store them safely away. However, if there is an increased risk by driving barefoot then don’t do it. The authorities have left us, the drivers, to make the best decision in each individual situation, we just need to make the right choice.

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Written By

Rachel White

Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.