Surprising as it may seem, the shoes you wear when you are driving may be both a legal and insurance issue.
It is important to say at the outset that the law in the UK does not attempt to dictate what shoes you wear whilst driving a motor vehicle. Therefore, there is no direct explicit prohibition, as such, on wearing things such as “flip-flops” or thin open sandals etc.
However, the position becomes more complicated because the law does require you to wear footwear that is suitable and safe enough for you to be in full control of the car at all times. There is inevitably a degree of imprecision in that position and judgment will be required by the authorities on a case-by-case basis but hopefully, common sense will normally be applied.
Potentially controversial choices
Although the example of flip-flops often comes to mind, there is nothing specific about a given type of shoe that means it might be dangerous. More commonly, legal and related insurance claim processes might take into account things such as:
- were the soles of the shoes too thin and/or too pliable to enable you to maintain appropriate force on the brake pedal in the event of emergency braking;
- did you select shoes that were too wide for the pedals of the car you were driving, meaning that when you were breaking you were also potentially depressing the accelerator;
- could loose straps or other fittings on your shoes, have become entangled or otherwise caught on the pedals when operating them;
- did your footwear allow mobility of your lower leg, ankle and foot, sufficient to mean you could rapidly react to emergencies requiring pedal shifts?
Why this is important – legally
In the event you have an accident with your vehicle, assuming it was sufficiently serious to justify the intervention of the police, they are likely to look at all aspects of the situation and make observations accordingly.
If they note that you were driving in totally inadequate footwear and that this had been a possible significant contributory factor to the accident, it is likely to be recorded and you may well also be liable to prosecution. That will be under the auspices of wearing shoes that did not permit you to be in full and total safe control of the vehicle whilst driving it.
Why this is important – insurance
Broadly speaking, car insurance cover exists to protect us from the financial consequences of situations that we could not have had a realistic chance of preventing.
If your car insurance cover provider, either directly or via reviewing police accident notes, believes that your footwear meant you were not meeting legal requirements in terms of being in control of the vehicle, your claim or elements of it may be rejected.
Whilst it seems unlikely that the police will be organising random roadside checks of the shoe types drivers are wearing on a given day, this is an issue that could potentially be a serious one.
The idea of wearing heavy sensible footwear might seem absurd when the weather is nice and the temperatures up, yet it is nevertheless a critical component of basic safe driving practices.
For both legal and car insurance reasons, this issue is one we should all be aware of and take seriously.