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Could your footwear get you in touble behind the wheel?

calendar Published on: Friday, 7th June 2019 | male icon Author: Kevin Thorpe

As a driver, it’s likely you’re well aware of the things you need to do in order to stay safe while you’re out and about on the roads - but did you know your choice of footwear can play a part in this too?

The truth is, the shoes you wear when you’re behind the wheel can have a significant impact on your ability to drive well. However, there is still a level of uncertainty around what is and isn’t allowed when it comes to your footwear choice for car journeys. To help you suss out what’s what, keep reading.

The law

According to Rule 97 of the Highway Code, a driver should ensure that their footwear does not prevent them from using the controls of their vehicle in the correct manner. However, it’s not technically illegal to drive without any shoes on at all. In the UK, you can get behind the wheel of a car while barefoot provided you are able to safely operate the controls. This also applies for wearing flip flops, sandals and even high heels.

There is a catch though. It’s important to be aware of the instances in which you should not be driving barefoot. For example, if you have wet, bare feet, you may struggle to drive the car in a safe manner, which in turn, could put yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk. In this case, this is considered to be illegal.

The importance of wearing suitable footwear while driving

According to the Driving Standards Agency, driving in suitable shoes is extremely important, and the agency stipulates that it is not recommended to drive barefoot due to the fact that you will not have the same braking force with bare feet as you would if you had shoes on.

The ability to bring a car to stop is essential for safety, and being barefoot or wearing unsuitable shoes, such as high heels, can jeopardise this. So, if you choose to get into the driving seat without thinking about your footwear first, it’s worth being aware of some of the challenges you may face.

Slippery feet

Repeatedly pressing on the pedals while you’re not wearing any shoes could cause your feet to sweat a little. If this happens, one or both of your feet are at a greater risk of slipping off, meaning that your ability to adhere to stopping distances may be affected, or you might struggle to stop the car in an emergency.

Applying the right amount of pressure

On a manual car, the clutch is a small, thin pedal which requires the driver to apply a lot of pressure using the ball of their foot. It’s important that the footwear you’re wearing has a sole which can help distribute this pressure evenly. If the sole of your shoe is unsuitable, you may struggle to get this just right, and you may not be able to achieve this at all if you are driving while barefoot.

Socks and stockings

Choosing to drive in socks or stockings can significantly reduce the tractions between your feet at the car’s pedals. This can mean that you’re unable to exert the right amount of pressure on the pedals than if you were wearing suitable footwear.

Pain while driving

The truth is, driving while wearing impractical shoes or any at all can be extremely painful, regardless of whether you’re travelling a long or short distance. For example, clutch pedals are designed to increase friction between your shoe and the pedal itself. The rough surface of the pedal helps prevent your left foot from slipping off when you apply pressure to change gear. Not wearing the right footwear or any at all can mean your feet become sore. Driving barefoot could even mean that you develop blisters, which can make it even more difficult to control the car in a safe manner.

Being prepared in the event of an accident

If you’re not wearing suitable footwear and become involved in an accident, you’re at a much greater risk of sustaining an injury to your feet as a result of glass or debris on the road. It’s also not ideal to have to wait at the side of the road without the correct footwear or any at all, especially during cold weather or during the night.

The guidelines

Even though driving in unsuitable shoes or barefoot is not illegal, your choice of (or lack of) footwear could still land in serious trouble with the law. For instance, if you are stopped by the police for driving without due care of attention and you’re found to be wearing unsuitable or no shoes at all, they have a right to suggest that this has hindered your ability to drive safely. As a result, you may be required to pay a fine and receive penalty points on your licence.

To ensure you’re driving safely, there are some basic guidelines you should follow when it comes to selecting suitable footwear. The shoe you wear while you’re behind the wheel should:

?    Have a sole that’s not too thin or thick, and measures no more than 10mm deep

?    Provide you with sufficient grip to prevent your foot from slipping

?    Not be too heavy

?    Not restrict your ankle movements

?    Not be so wide that you could accidentally press on two pedals at once

Although driving in impractical footwear or no shoes at all is not illegal, it is your responsibility as a driver to make sure that you’re driving safely at all times. So, if you think your shoe choices could be putting you in harm’s way on the roads, it might be a good idea to have a rethink.