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Is It Illegal to Drive Barefoot in New York?

is it illegal to drive barefoot in new york

When the weather warms up and the sun starts to shine, many individuals feel tempted to take a drive while not wearing shoes, or sometimes not wearing shirts. Especially if you spend all day in high heels, dress shoes, or wearing shoes that are uncomfortable, many people want to simply take them off when they get in their car. With the windows rolled down and a nice breeze, this could feel very relaxing. However, many people wonder about the legality of driving barefoot in their state. In this blog, our New York car accident attorneys explain if it’s illegal to drive barefoot, as well as the legal implications of barefoot driving.

At Bailey, Johnson & Peck, our motor vehicle accident attorneys have handled a wide array of personal injury cases involving vehicles. This includes cases involving reckless driving, distracted driving, motorcycle drivers, dangerous driving, truck accidents, and wrongful death. In other words, our experience will come in handy if you get into a motor vehicle accident that wasn’t your fault. To schedule a consultation with us, please call our Albany law office at 518-456-0082 or fill out our online intake form today.

Is Driving Barefoot Illegal in New York?

is it illegal to drive barefoot

The short answer is no. It is not illegal to drive barefoot in the state of New York. There are currently no local laws that prohibit barefoot driving. If, for example, police officers were to pull you over for something else, they cannot issue a traffic ticket for barefoot driving. So, is driving barefoot illegal? No. However, that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea.

Some individuals feel that driving barefoot is riskier than driving while wearing shoes. While you may not receive a ticket for driving barefoot, if you are involved in a car accident and another person or their insurance company discovers you were driving barefoot, they may argue that your driving without shoes led to the accident, making you partially accountable.

Do You Have to Wear Shoes While Driving in New York?

Technically, no. While it might not be the best idea to drive without shoes, many people still do it. Some actually feel that they drive more safely while barefoot since they can more directly feel the pedals and the floor of the vehicle. Others, however, hold the opposite view. No matter what footwear you decide to wear while driving, it’s important to note that you cannot receive a reckless driving charge if you drive barefoot.

Why You Might Want to Wear Shoes Anyway

Because New York is a comparative negligence state, it’s probably a good idea to wear shoes regardless of whether or not it’s illegal to drive barefoot. Comparative negligence means that, for whatever percentage you are deemed responsible for the crash, your compensation possibility will be lowered by that percentage. For example, if you are deemed 20% at fault for the accident, the compensation you can recover is lowered by 20%. 

While it may appear absurd at first to be held accountable for something that is lawful, it starts to make sense with a little more thought. If you were distracted by another permissible activity while driving, such as sipping coffee or eating a sandwich, and the accident resulted in a collision, you would be at least partially to blame for the crash, and the compensation you may collect would be reduced.

The same may be said about driving barefoot. Because it is a contentious subject, if the other side or their insurance company discovers you were barefoot or that your barefoot driving contributed to the accident, your damages may be reduced or you may be obliged to compensate the other party.

Is It Dangerous to Drive Without Shoes?

New York drivers are supposed to drive as safely as they possibly can. One risk of driving barefoot is that it might feel very different from driving with shoes. If you’re not used to driving with your feet on the floor, it might be distracting or prompt you to put too much force on the gas or brake pedals. If your pedals are damp, your bare feet may slip off them more easily, particularly if you push them abruptly. When you’re in a hurry and need to apply the throttle or stop rapidly, these seemingly minor worries might turn into major safety problems.

Is It Dangerous to Drive in Flip Flops?

is it illegal to drive without shoes

As it pertains to safely operating a motor vehicle, flip flops are not as safe as other footwear. Flip flops and other forms of backless shoes could potentially affect your driving ability. For example, the flip flop could bend and easily slip off your foot, lodging itself underneath the gas pedal or brake pedal. This is highly dangerous in situations where you need to exert braking force or accelerate quickly. 

Other footwear, such as heeled sandals, wedge heels, open toed shoes, and high heels can also be dangerous. This is because wearing high heels or other shoes makes it difficult to discern how much pressure you’re actually applying to the pedals. 

The safest place for your foot while not on a pedal is firmly planted on the floor. Wearing heels or other women’s dress shoes often raises the heel off the floor. This can make it difficult to position your foot from an unfamiliar angle. It limits the movement of your heel, thus making it more difficult to find the right pedal. Certain shoes with pointed toes or slippery bottoms also impact your ability to drive safely.

The bottom line is that flip flops, open toed shoes, and long laces shoes are more dangerous than other shoes, such as close toed shoes. Driving shoes that you can consider safe footwear for the road are those that do not put your foot in an awkward position and that don’t impede the safe operation of your vehicle.

While it is not illegal to drive barefoot, and there are no local regulations against it, you could still be liable if driving barefoot led to an accident. Every motorist in New York is responsible for driving their vehicles and a safe and conscientious way. When a motorist fails to take necessary precautions to avoid injuring or killing another person, this is known as negligence.

For example, it’s not illegal to drive while drinking a beverage. However, if you spill that beverage in your lap and that causes you to swerve into traffic, you’ll probably be held responsible for the damages you cause. Similarly, if you drive with bare feet and your foot slips off of a wet pedal, any damages you cause as a result of the slip might be held against you. 

Your liability doesn’t come from driving barefoot. Rather, it comes from a jury deciding that your driving barefoot or with unsafe footwear constitutes reckless driving. Other shoes allow you to have more control over motor vehicles, so they may argue that driving barefoot is a way of not exercising reasonable care in the operation of a motor vehicle.

Additionally, even if you didn’t fully cause the accident, New York has a pure comparative fault rule. This means that, if multiple people share partial responsibility for an accident, their damages are reduced by the percentage that they were at fault for the accident. Therefore, if a jury determines that your driving with bare feet contributed to the accident, you could have your compensation reduced.

What to Do if You Get Into an Accident While Driving Barefoot

is driving barefoot illegal

If you’ve been in a car accident while driving barefoot, it’s important to remember to follow the same practices that you would in any other car accident. Start by exchanging information with the other driver, as well as recording their license number. Don’t provide any information about yourself that isn’t necessary.

Speak with law enforcement and give your account of the accident, but don’t add anything more. Anything you say will most likely be added to the police record, which will be given to insurance companies. 

Tell your insurance company about the accident within a reasonable amount of time. Check your personal policy to determine what they consider “reasonable.” However, we advise that you do not talk to the insurance reps of the other driver. Finally, contact a New York personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

Why Is There a Misconception Around Driving Barefoot?

You’ve probably heard at least once in your life that driving barefoot is illegal. It might seem like a strange warning at first, but there’s actually a reason for it. Most people believe that it’s illegal to drive barefoot in America. However, it’s perfectly legal, except for motorcycle riders in some states. In the next section, we discuss how that misconception came to be.

How Did the Misconception Start?

The main origin of this urban legend is that, once it got started, people just took it at face value. This is similar to the “driving with a light on in the car is illegal” myth. Many people heard it from their parents or grandparents and simply accepted it as law. We just assume that driving barefoot is dangerous because someone told us so.

Another reason is that certain police departments actively and openly discourage barefoot driving. However, discouraging something isn’t the same as making it illegal. While they can discourage it, there are no state laws to back them up legally.

Lastly, there’s another urban legend that states that if you get into an accident while driving barefoot, you’ll receive a citation for reckless driving. However, this is false. So long as you remember your safe driving practices, you won’t be punished for driving barefoot.

Motorcycle Laws on Barefoot Driving

driving barefoot

One state has implemented distinct restrictions for motorcycle drivers and passengers, presumably because their feet are exposed to the weather and may be injured by road debris. The only state we identified that requires the usage of footwear when riding a motorbike is Alabama.

Most states, however, do not have such restrictions. Even California, which is notorious for its protective legislation, permits riders to go barefoot on a motorbike, albeit the state advises against it.

What Are the Safety Implications of Driving Barefoot?

Regardless of the legality of driving with bare feet, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate whether you should drive barefoot. In general, it’s better to wear shoes with sturdy soles that grip if your vehicle has metal or slick pedals. Driving with flip flops, however, is still fairly dangerous.

They could become accidentally hung underneath one of the pedals and prevent you from pressing on the brakes when you need to be. Other types of shoes, such as those with long laces or heels, are also dangerous for similar reasons. 

Contact a New York Car Accident Attorney Today

At Bailey, Johnson & Peck, our New York personal injury attorneys have served the Albany and capital district areas for more than 40 years. If you need a car accident attorney after you suffered injuries, we’re here for you. We are a full service law firm offering representation in personal injury, insurance defense, municipal law, estate planning, and employment law. To schedule a consultation with us, please call 518-456-0082 or fill out our online intake form today.

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