Is It Illegal to Drive Without Shoes?

Is It Illegal to Drive Without Shoes?
anja./Unsplash

You’ve heard it from your driver’s ed instructor. Your parents hammered it home as you learned. And all through your driving career, you’ve believed it. “It’s illegal to drive without shoes on!” But is it illegal to drive barefoot for real?

You’ve been duped. Although everyone knows someone whose friend, uncle or cousin was ticketed for driving barefoot, it’s an urban legend. If you aren’t convinced, keep reading to find out more about one of the most prolific laws that isn’t actually law.

Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

From sea to shining sea, there isn’t a single state where it’s illegal to drive barefoot. That doesn’t mean authorities discourage the practice, and there may even be an implied message that it’s illegal to drive without shoes. Here’s what each state has to say about a lack of footwear while you’re in the driver’s seat.

Alabama

It isn’t illegal to drive barefoot in Alabama. However, if it’s deemed to be a contributing factor to a crash, the driver could be slapped with a charge of reckless driving. There’s one exception, though: Alabama requires motorcycle drivers to wear shoes by law.

Alaska

Alaskan regulations for driver safety responsibility make no mention of any law regarding the mandatory use of footwear while driving, nor do the regulations regarding unsafe driving practices. For a solid six months of the year, however, it could be quite uncomfortable to drive barefoot due to snow and ice.

Arizona

The laws in Arizona don’t detail anything to ban drivers from going shoeless. You could face civil penalties or a charge of reckless driving if your lack of safe footwear contributes to a collision, however.

Arkansas

Arkansas is known as “the Natural State,” but is it illegal to drive barefoot here? It is not illegal, and it would be weird if it was. The local newspaper was advised by law enforcement that there is no legal code mandating that drivers wear shoes. However, they also said it’s at an officer’s discretion to ticket the driver for careless and prohibited driving, assuming their shoeless feet are contributing to bad driving.

California

In the amazing Californian weather, it can be tempting to drive barefoot. There are no laws governing footwear for drivers. Like other states, you can be cited for reckless driving or negligence if your choice to not wear shoes contributes to an accident, like your foot slipping off the brake pedal.

Colorado

Colorado has some unusual driving laws, but can you drive without shoes? That’s not one of the things you can get specifically cited for here. In fact, it isn’t mentioned by the DMV or the law books at all.

Connecticut

In research a few years back, the Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles was one of a handful that actually replied to an inquiry about driving barefoot. They responded, “We are not aware of any Connecticut state laws that address this issue.”

Delaware

Flip through the pages of the Delaware driver’s manual and, although you’ll find 52 references to feet, they all have to do with distance from another vehicle or object. There aren’t any laws or recommendations regarding driving barefoot.

Florida

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles in Florida responded to an inquiry about the question, “Can you drive without shoes in Florida?” Their response was, “There is no specific law which makes it illegal to drive barefoot in Florida… Additionally, no other Florida Statutes or Florida Administrative Codes address the legality or illegality of driving barefoot.” And perhaps there’s nowhere else in the nation someone would want to drive without shoes.

Georgia

Although it’s illegal to drive with headphones in both your ears (one is fine), there’s no law forbidding drivers from going barefoot. Frank Waits, the police chief in Vidalia, Georgia, said there has never been a law in Georgia about driving barefoot.

Hawaii

Wearing shoes in many parts of Hawaii is discouraged as part of the aloha spirit. But is driving barefoot illegal? Wouldn’t that be an odd law! In Hawaii, like all other states, there is no law that requires you to wear shoes of any kind when you drive.

Idaho

Anyone over the age of 88 is forbidden to ride a motorcycle in Idaho Falls, apparently, but can you drive without shoes? The Idaho “Driver’s Handbook” doesn’t include shoes as required equipment, but you could be cited for inattentive driving if not wearing shoes causes a distraction.

Illinois

Although there have been rumors of people threatened with citations for driving barefoot, there aren’t any cases where it’s happened. A quick search of the Illinois vehicle code using the terms “barefoot,” “foot” and “shoes” comes up empty.

Indiana

You can be ticketed for careless driving if you are in an accident while driving shoeless. But is it illegal to drive barefoot in Indiana? No, it isn’t.

Iowa

There are plenty of actions that are considered distracted driving in Iowa, like changing the radio station, checking your phone and talking to a passenger. But even though you could be ticketed for reckless driving if it causes a collision, Iowa laws don’t specifically say you can’t legally drive without shoes on.

Kansas

It’s a myth that you can’t drive barefoot, according to Kansas police. The department said there is no law against driving barefoot and, “Actually, driving barefoot would be safer than driving in flip-flops, sandals or high heels.”

Kentucky

In Kentucky, the driver’s manual specifically indicates that cyclists must wear shoes at all times. But nowhere in the manual, nor in any law books, are there requirements for automobile drivers to wear shoes.

Louisiana

A woman isn’t legally allowed to drive in New Orleans unless her husband waves a flag in front of it. But Louisiana law doesn’t address driving without footwear.

Maine

In Maine, you could be found liable if driving barefoot causes you to lose control of your vehicle or distracts you. But is it illegal to drive without shoes on? Not at all.

Maryland

The Motor Vehicle Administration in Maryland provided a response to the question, “Is driving barefoot illegal?” They said, “Currently Maryland law contains no prohibition against operating any motor vehicle with bare feet.”

Massachusetts

A lawyer in Massachusetts scrubbed through case law regarding the legality of barefoot driving in the state. They didn’t find anything. Whether in just socks or barefoot, it’s safe to assume you can drive without shoes legally.

Michigan

In an “Ask a Trooper” segment, a newsreader asked, “Is it illegal to drive barefoot?” the Michigan state police officer replied that the Michigan vehicle code does not prohibit it.

Minnesota

Law enforcement in Minnesota replied to a question online regarding barefoot driving. The officer mentioned not only that it is legal to drive without shoes on, but that loose sandals and flip-flops can interfere with the pedals. Presumably, driving barefoot could be safer than wearing certain shoes.

Mississippi

The state of Mississippi is quiet regarding laws about driving without shoes. You won’t find it written in the books anywhere that you can’t operate a vehicle barefoot.

Missouri

The Missouri State Highway Patrol has published online that it is not illegal to drive barefoot in Missouri. Sometimes it can be safer to do so rather than wearing high heels or sandals.

Montana

In Montana, there are laws regarding careless and reckless driving to promote safety on the roads, but none of the laws dictate that drivers must wear shoes.

Nebraska

In the Nebraska “Driver’s Manual” from their DMV, no mention of “barefoot” or “shoes” is made whatsoever.

Nevada

According to a letter to the Society for Barefoot Living, the Nevada Highway Patrol states that “operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted in the State of Nevada.” You can be cited for a failure to exercise due care if your shoeless condition contributes to an accident if an officer deems it.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, you don’t even need to have insurance to legally operate on the roadway. Naturally, their laws don’t mention driving barefoot at all.

New Jersey

The website Barefoot is Legal found out from the state of New Jersey that there are no laws on record that make it illegal to drive barefoot.

New Mexico

Although it may not be prudent and it could be a contributing factor to an accident, it’s not law in New Mexico that you can’t drive without shoes.

New York

Parents in New York—a state with some of the most aggressive drivers—have good cause to admonish their children while teaching them to drive. But one often-misstated law is that it is illegal to drive without shoes in New York. It isn’t.

North Carolina

North Carolina’s driving laws are easy to find. In addition to speed limits and seat belt use, there are several laws indicated by NCDOT. But a ban on driving barefoot is not one of them.

North Dakota

If an officer finds that driving barefoot has caused you to be distracted, you could be cited. However, there are no state laws that make it illegal to drive barefoot.

Ohio

Ohio is one of the few states that mentions driving barefoot in its laws. It says that, “Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted, but not recommended.”

Oklahoma

No state law exists in Oklahoma that makes it illegal to drive without shoes, even though it’s illegal to read a comic book while driving.

Oregon

In correspondence with the Oregon Department of Transportation, one individual discovered that the DMV encourages motorcycle riders to wear sturdy footwear to support and cover their ankles. But there are no laws against driving barefoot for any motor vehicle, including motorcyclists.

Pennsylvania

According to Pennsylvania’s vehicle laws, there is nothing that forbids a driver from going barefoot. That’s been confirmed with PennDOT spokeswoman Jan McKnight.

Rhode Island

Is it illegal to drive barefoot in Rhode Island? Once again, you won’t find anything regarding a lack of footwear in the laws or driver’s manual.

South Carolina

You may not take your pig for a nighttime drive in South Carolina, but you’re fully allowed to drive without shoes. At least, there’s no law saying otherwise.

South Dakota

According to South Dakota laws, you can get a driver’s license at just 14 years of age. Even then, driving barefoot isn’t against the law.

Tennessee

Although there isn’t a state law in Tennessee that requires you to wear shoes while driving, officials recommend checking with your local county regulations to make sure there aren’t local laws in place.

Texas

Is it illegal to drive without shoes on in Texas? Just like every other state, the Lonestar State is free from the oppression of closed-toe footwear while at the wheel.

Utah

A statement on the Utah Highway Patrol website says it best: “Utah law does not require that shoes be worn while operating a motor vehicle. However, common sense should prevail and shoes should be worn. It is much easier and safer to operate a vehicle while wearing shoes.”

Vermont

The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles simply stated in an email that “Vermont has no law prohibiting driving while barefoot.”

Virginia

The Commonwealth of Virginia goes further than most states by encouraging drivers to wear “safe footwear that does not have an open heel such as flip-flops or sandals, or high-heeled shoes.” They caution against driving in bare feet because vehicle control can be compromised, but it still isn’t illegal.

Washington

Washington State Patrol confirms that it isn’t illegal to drive barefoot in the state. You can’t be ticketed for driving without shoes, but you could be fined if it causes issues with your driving otherwise.

West Virginia

There are plenty of pages of rules and regulations to abide by in the West Virginia “Driver’s Manual,” but none of them say it’s illegal to drive barefoot.

Wisconsin

It’s a frequently asked question on the WisconsinDOT website. “Is it legal to drive without shoes?” In one word, they answer: Yes.

Wyoming

Nothing in the MCL traffic code mentions footwear at all; it is not illegal to drive barefoot. That does not mean it’s safe, however.

Is driving barefoot safe?

Whether driving without any footwear is safe or not is a matter of perspective. Some arguments for driving barefoot being dangerous are that your foot can slip off the pedal if it’s wet, and you can’t apply the same pressure barefoot.

However, barefoot advocates would counter that you have a better tactile feel without shoes on and you can drive more carefully. And it also depends on what type of shoes you would be wearing otherwise. Generally speaking, though, it’s safer to drive in a good pair of shoes unless mitigating factors dictate otherwise. If you’ve stepped in something slick, like grease or oil, driving barefoot might be the safer move.

Are some shoes more dangerous than driving barefoot?

There are a few styles of shoes that could be more dangerous for the driver than going barefoot.

Flip-flops: Sandals and flip-flops can get caught under the brake or accelerator pedal easily, rendering them inoperable. They also aren’t securely fastened to your feet, making them easy to lose under the pedals.

High heels: The design of most high-heeled shoes interferes with the body’s natural movement in the legs and ankles, which is crucial for operating a car safely. The higher the heel, the more difficult and dangerous they are to drive in.

Shoes with long laces: Excessively long laces, even when tied securely, can become entangled in the pedals and make them difficult to operate. Make sure long laces are securely tucked away before driving.

Open-toed shoes: Peep toes and similar footwear have some of the same risks as flip-flops—the toe opening increases the risk that the shoe will work its way under the pedal.

Dress shoes: Both men’s and women’s dress shoes (especially higher quality ones) tend to have sturdy leather soles. That’s great for longevity, but they also happen to be slippery, especially when they’re new.

Open-heel shoes: Slippers, clogs and other backless shoes all carry the same risk: Your foot could slip out of the shoe while leaving it behind on the pedal, making regaining control both difficult and dangerous.

Shoes that are more dangerous than driving barefoot.

Why do people believe it’s illegal to drive barefoot?

Like an urban legend or campfire story, this falsified law is probably steeped in some type of truth through the decades it’s been told. Online, there are first-, second- and third-hand accounts of people being ticketed for driving barefoot.

However, because no state has a law making barefoot driving a crime, it’s much more likely that the ticket was for reckless driving. A lack of shoes may have caused the behavior, sure, but it’s not the infraction listed on the ticket.

Some anecdotes are even more grim, relaying stories of barefoot driving leading to deadly accidents or even severed toes. If you believe the stories, it’s not hard to imagine that laws would have been passed to avoid further preventable tragedies. None have been, but law enforcement officers have gone on record stating that driving shoeless increases your risk of injury in the event of a crash.

Other possible contributing factors could be benign coincidences. Since most people tend to drive with shoes, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if not doing so is illegal. And we’ve all observed “no shoes, no shirt, no service” signs posted in businesses, so one could assume that extends to driving as well. And since some police departments and DMVs do discourage barefoot driving, many people likely think that discouragement is backed up by laws of some kind.

The odd instance of an officer writing a ticket solely for driving barefoot could be true. However, most of these stories are probably tickets written for other issues like unsafe driving or distracted driving.

Conclusion

No matter what state you’re driving in, there is no sweeping law that says it’s illegal to drive barefoot. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, though. It may be better than driving in certain types of footwear, but a good set of rubber-soled shoes is probably your best bet for driving. Don’t fall for this urban legend.


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