here is no law in Maryland requiring shoes or prohibiting certain types of footwear while driving. However, driving while barefoot or wearing shoes such as high heels or flip-flops can be unsafe. Improper footwear affects your ability to apply pressure to your pedals or pivot between them. They can even cause you to hit both pedals at once.
Shoes to Avoid While Driving
You should avoid wearing the following types of shoes while driving. These shoes can impair your ability to control your vehicle’s pedals.
This is obvious, right? High heels make it difficult to pivot your feet between the brake and gas pedals. They may also result in your feet hovering between the pedals. This can cause fatigue and negatively affect your reaction time. High heels can also get caught under the pedals, with disastrous results.
Platform shoes include any type of footwear with abnormally thick soles. Thick soled platform shoes can cause the wrong amount of pressure to be applied on the pedals. They may also cause both pedals to be pressed at once.
Enclosed slippers provide insufficient pedal traction because they are loose-fitting and malleable. Non-enclosed, flip-flop style slippers provide even less traction.
Driving while wearing work boots can make it more difficult to accurately feel the pedals. This can cause miscalculations in braking and accelerating.
Flip-flops affect braking or accelerating because they do not secure the heel. They are also prone to slipping off and getting caught under a pedal. These issues make driving while wearing flip-flops unsafe.
Brand-new shoes may feel uncomfortable at first until they are broken in. As a result, this affects your ability to pivot or properly apply pressure on the pedals. Their soles may be initially slippery and slick, which affects pedal traction.
Driving barefoot is risky because you cannot evenly distribute your foot’s force. You may not have enough pressure to brake effectively. This can especially occur when your vehicle’s anti-lock braking system (ABS) is on. Bare feet are also prone to getting wet, which affects pivoting abilities, pedal grip, and reaction time.
Good Shoes for Driving
When selecting appropriate driving footwear, make sure it is comfortable enough for long drives. The sole should be not too thick, soft, or wide. These shoes will give you better control of your vehicle’s pedals. They include:
You can do everything well in tennis shoes. Sneakers have flat soles, making it easy to pivot or apply the right amount of pressure on the pedals.
Okay, not really practical for most people for many reasons. I’ll include this anyway. Initially made for auto enthusiasts, driving shoes are an excellent choice for anyone getting behind the wheel. Their rubber soles and grommets improve pedal grip and traction. Driving shoes also have pivot points that make it easier to pivot between the two pedals.
NHTSA Study on Pedal Error
According to an NHTSA study, pedal error-related crashes occur up to 16,000 times a year. It also found that drivers under 20 years old or over 65 years old were four times more likely to be involved in these collisions. While the study did not explicitly reference footwear, the NHTSA’s safety advisory on pedal error recommended wearing appropriate shoes. This indicates that NHTSA recognizes that wearing certain footwear while driving can be unsafe.
British Survey on Footwear and Driving Safety
The British insurance company Sheila’s Wheels surveyed 1,055 drivers in the U.K. on their driving habits. They found that about 60 percent reportedly drove with shoes unsuitable for driving and that 20 percent continued to wear the same shoes they wore when they nearly got into an accident. They also found that 7 percent admitted that their flip flops were responsible for either a close call or an accident. What this survey shows is that driving while wearing certain shoes, especially flip-flops, is unsafe and widespread.
French Supreme Court Decision
In 2014, France’s Supreme Court ruled that wearing high heels while driving violated the country’s highway laws. This case involved a woman who lost control of her vehicle while on a slippery road, causing her to strike a vehicle head-on. This resulted in the death of a seven-year-old girl. The woman sought 250,000 Euros in compensation from the other driver’s insurer. She initially won her case. However, an appeals court overturned the decision. The Supreme Court upheld it, finding that the woman’s high heels getting caught under the pedals contributed significantly to the collision.
Take Home Message on Footwear
Wearing the wrong footwear while driving can potentially be a contributing factor in causing a car accident and it happens more often than people realize. Ill-fitting shoes can hinder a driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely and control the pedals effectively. So shoes that are too loose or too tight can interfere with the driver’s ability to feel the pedals and apply the correct amount of pressure, leading to unintended acceleration, braking or other control issues. Additionally, shoes with high heels, flip flops, or other types of open-toed footwear can become entangled in the pedals and impair the driver’s ability to control the vehicle. Stating the obvious, you need to wear footwear that will not put you and everyone on the road with you at risk.
If you plan to wear high heels, flip-flops, or cowboy boots at your destination, please wear another shoe while driving. Please keep your other shoes away from the footwell, as this can cause an obstruction. You can swap them upon arrival. Wearing appropriate footwear helps reduce your chances of getting into an accident. However, please continue to use common sense when driving. Safe driving shoes are useless unless you drive safely.