For some reason, it seems everyone has heard that it is illegal to drive barefoot in California —or in some other state in the U.S. Sometimes, the person spreading these rumors claims it’s an infraction, other times, they may sometimes say it’s even considered to be a form of reckless driving. But if you’ve been afraid to go shoeless behind the wheel, go ahead and slip off your slip-ons because there’s nothing illegal about driving barefoot.
Is it Illegal to Drive Barefoot in California?
It is entirely legal to drive barefoot in every single state of the U.S. In San Diego, barefoot driving is particularly common because so many people take off their shoes to drive on hot days when their feet are sweaty, or after their shoes get sandy at the beach or in desert dunes.
Even though driving without shoes is legal, it could still technically result in a negligent (though not reckless) driving citation if it caused you to get into an accident. You could only be cited if an officer who arrived at the accident scene believes that your shoelessness was somehow responsible for causing the crash. The same thing could happen if you were changing the station on your car radio when an accident occurred.
Essentially, an officer could issue a negligent driving ticket any time someone drives in a dangerously negligent manner. Simply being barefoot wouldn’t be enough to get a citation of this type —you would have to be doing something dangerous while barefoot. You would have to be doing something dangerous while barefoot, for example, seeing if you could lift the pedal with your toes or itching the bottom of one foot with the toes of another. When it comes to barefoot driving, the activity most likely to result in your getting ticketed would be removing your shoes while driving.
Can You Ride a Motorcycle Barefoot?
Interestingly, while driving barefoot is legal in every state, one state has taken extra effort to prohibit the activity while riding on a motorcycle. In Alabama, you can be cited for operating a motorcycle with bare feet. Because those on these vehicles are so exposed to the elements, and this could present a safety issue if a driver or passenger were injured while the cycle was in motion, it is recommended that everyone on a motorcycle wear shoes regardless of whether or not it is against the law.
Is Driving Barefoot Safe?
Some people claim shoeless driving is dangerous, but there seems to be no evidence that this is actually true. Driving without shoes can hypothetically make braking more challenging, and if your feet are sweaty, they could slide off the pedal, but there are no statistics on the dangers of driving barefoot vs. doing so while wearing shoes.
There are certainly times where driving barefoot could be dangerous —particularly if you leave your unworn shoes on the driver’s side floor where they could slide under the pedals. But going shoeless is certainly safer than wearing other types of footwear behind the wheel, such as flip flops, slippers, platform heels, or high heels.
What is Considered Reckless Driving?
Now that you know you can drive barefoot, you may wonder what is considered reckless when behind the wheel. Reckless driving occurs when someone operates a vehicle in a manner that shows a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of persons or property.
While that may sound vague, examples include driving on the sidewalk, swerving into an oncoming lane, or purposefully ignoring traffic lights or stop signs. Essentially, the behavior has to be dangerous and purposeful. This driving offense is usually a misdemeanor charge that could leave you behind bars, but if someone is injured as a result of this crime, it could be charged as a felony.
Other Clothing-Related Driving Questions
While it is legal to drive barefoot, there are some things you can be busted for wearing while driving. Here are some common fashion choices that may or may not be legal in the golden state:
Is it Legal to Drive Topless in California?
Men can drive topless all they want, but women who choose to bear their breasts while driving could potentially face indecent exposure charges. However, a woman cannot be charged simply for driving topless. Under the state’s indecent exposure laws, someone can only be charged if they show their genitals for the purpose of sexual gratification or to offend others, so if a woman flashed someone to flirt with or anger someone, she could be charged. On the other hand, if a woman was driving topless where no one could see whether or not she had a shirt on and she was not doing so with sexual or offensive intent, she wouldn’t be committing a crime.
Can You Drive With Headphones in Your Ears?
California Vehicle Code section 27400 (VC) says you cannot legally drive with headphones in both ears because these devices block out important sounds around you, such as emergency vehicles, car horns, and the voices of pedestrians. However, you can drive with a single headphone in one ear if you want to listen to music. There are also exceptions for:
- persons who have hearing problems and require the use of hearing aids
- construction workers using heavy equipment
- garbage collectors using safety earplugs
- emergency vehicle drivers
- people who use noise-blocking devices to protect their ears while driving as long as they can still hear horns and sirens
If you have any questions about driving shoeless or other motor vehicle laws in California, please call lawyer Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.