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Is Driving Barefoot Legal in California?

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As a driving instructor in California, I was surprised by how often my students posed this question. There's no law that says you can't, and there's no law that says you can. To put it simply: yes, you can drive barefoot if you are driving safely.

I Drive Barefoot

Personally, I drive barefoot whenever I can get my shoe off. I can determine where my foot is on the pedal much better barefoot.

I don't recommend wearing flip-flops while driving. The flip-flop sole can get caught under either pedal. I've had my flip-flop catch under the brake pedal twice in my driving career, and that was enough for me.

Be careful of this!

Be careful of this!

Pedals Are Staggered

Have you ever noticed that the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal are set up in a staggered formation in most cars, well, all the cars I've ever driven have this staggered formation.

The staggered pedals are not conducive to wearing flip-flops at all! If you find yourself in a situation where you need to hit the brakes suddenly, and if you're wearing flip-flops, the sole of the flip-flop will get caught under the brake pedal! Partly due to the movement of your foot being faster than the sole of the flip-flop moves, and part due to the staggered formation of the accelerator to the brake pedal. Check out the photo below. This is a photo from a Ford Explorer. The distance from the accelerator up to the brake pedal is a huge eight inches! This is a popular vehicle, and to think every driver has this eight-inch expanse they must cover to go from accelerating to braking, and some of those people may be wearing flip-flops?! This is concerning for me.

Pedal height

Pedal height

Driving With Boots

Well, if driving with flip-flops on doesn't concern you, then think about this: Wearing a work boot to drive is just as dicey as wearing flip-flops to drive.

You know those heavy work boots men usually wear for work, the ones. Some of them have a steel toe as well. These boots are constructed with the intention of making your foot impervious to outside stimuli. This is great, if you're walking around at work, but not so great for driving a car. The accelerator pedal and the brake pedal are both outside stimuli!

When you're wearing boots and trying to drive, exactly where your foot is on the accelerator, or brake, is all a guessing game. The boot wearer cannot feel the pedals! The driver is guesstimating where his or her foot is on these pedals. Don't get me wrong, I wear boots myself sometimes, but when I get in the car, they go into the back seat. I don't want to be guessing whether I'm on the brake, or not, I want to know for sure.

It Is Up to You

There are some situations where going barefoot would just be plain silly. For example, riding a motorcycle. There's no law about going barefoot driving a motorcycle either. But common sense should tell you that would be the worst stubbed toe of your life if your toe hit the pavement by accident.

If you feel comfortable wearing shoes, boots, or flip-flops when you are driving, then that is the way you should drive. But, if you feel you want to take them off, go right ahead because it's really up to you just as long as you are driving safely.

What About You?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.