“Before setting off on a road journey you should take a few moments to ensure that…you are wearing appropriate clothing and footwear to drive a vehicle. It should not prevent you from using the vehicle controls in the correct manner for driving…” (Rule 97: The High Way Code 2020, Roadworthy Vehicle Checks Before Driving)
Due to misunderstanding about the correct law and interpretation of Rule 97 of the High Way Code 2020, there is a great level of uncertainty surrounding whether or not it is illegal to drive with flip-flops or barefoot.
In this article, an attempt would be made to interpret Rule 97 correctly and answer the burning question of whether driving with a flip fop or in barefoot is illegal in the UK.
It is not illegal to drive in the UK without shoes on and the same applies to wear flip-flops.
Driving in barefoot or flip-fop
A driver in the UK can get behind the wheel of a vehicle barefoot or while wearing flip flops as long as he is able to operate the controls safely under the Rules. That means if a UK driver is able to operate the controls safely whilst driving his vehicle barefoot or wearing flip-flops, his driving would be lawful. Therefore driving a vehicle barefoot or wearing flip-flops is not illegal in the UK.
Rule 97 of Highway Code
If we look at Part – 4 (Before setting off), Rule 97 of the High Way Code, we would see that it did not declare that driving barefoot or wearing flip-flops is illegal in the UK. Following Rule 97 would help the drivers & riders learn to drive safely and keep all road users safe from accidents. Rule 97 says, Before setting off. You should ensure that (1) you have planned your route and allowed sufficient time; (2) clothing and footwear do not prevent you from using the controls in the correct manner; (3) you know where all the controls are and how to use them before you need them. Not all vehicles are the same; do not wait until it is too late to find out; (4) your mirrors and seat are adjusted correctly to ensure comfort, full control, and maximum vision head restraints are properly adjusted to reduce the risk of neck and spine injuries in the event of a collision; (5) you have sufficient fuel before commencing your journey, especially if it includes motorway driving. It can be dangerous to lose power when driving in traffic; (6) ensure your vehicle is legal and roadworthy; (7) switch off your mobile phone
There is no provision in Rule 97, which would make driving a vehicle in barefoot or wearing flip-flops illegal in the UK. A driver should be careful whilst driving either barefoot or wearing flip-flops. His clothing and footwear should not prevent him from using the controls in the correct manner. For example, if a driver drives wearing flip-flops with wet feet, he might be putting himself, his passengers, and other road users at risk by not being able to drive the car safely. In those circumstances, the driving would be illegal.
In addition, while it is not illegal to drive without shoes on, yet it is advisable that drivers should wear suitable shoes whilst driving. According to the Driving Standards Agency – the body that regulates the UK driving test – “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”
It is to be noted that there is currently no legislation in place that requires Brits to wear appropriate shoes for driving.
However, the Driving Standards Agency (DVSA) has stressed the importance of using sturdy footwear behind the wheel and avoiding driving barefoot at all costs. The DVSA advises: “Suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. DVSA recommended that “We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.” DVSA also warned that Flip-flops may also be a risky choice as they can sometimes get wedged underneath the pedal or slip off.
As mentioned above that there is currently no legislation in place to describe appropriate shoes or suitable footwear for driving. According to the RAC there are some guidelines for what footwear is suitable: Firstly, the shoe or footwear should have a sole no thicker than 10mm… but the sole should not be too thin or soft. Secondly, the shoe or footwear should provide enough grips to stop your foot slipping off the pedals. Thirdly, the shoe or footwear should not be too heavy. Fourthly, the shoe or footwear should not limit ankle movement and finally, the shoe or footwear should not be narrow enough to avoid accidentally depressing two pedals at once.
If the footwear/shoe affords the driver to control the car properly, then Police would not be able to impose any fine.
However, if police while driving in a potentially dangerous manner stops a driver or the footwear is the reason for an accident then that driver could be charged with driving without due care and attention.
It would be classified as careless driving & the offending motorists can be charged with driving without due care and attention (careless driving). Careless driving is mostly judged on the impact your driving has on others around you, so if you are spotted swerving or braking erratically and then stopped and found to have inadequate footwear, you could be prosecuted If you do cause a crash, then it could also be an aggravating factor against you in court and lead to a slightly higher fine or longer ban.
Fine & Penalty Points
Careless driving carries a £100 on-the-spot fine and three penalty points on your license. In more serious cases or those that are contested in court, the charge can attract a maximum of £5,000 fine, up to nine penalty points, and even a court-imposed driving ban.
Flip flops are not encouraged because of their lack of grip and the chance they may fall off and wedge themselves under the pedals. Therefore drivers should wear suitable shoes when driving behind the wheel. Driving barefoot is also not recommended, as Drivers would not have the same braking force with bare feet as they do with shoes on.
Under the law of the land, the drivers should drive in shoes that afford them the proper control over the car. It is not a specific offense driving in flip-flops or even barefoot but drivers must be able to operate the controls safely. Driving in less than practical shoes – or no shoes at all for that matter – is not illegal, but you have a responsibility as a driver to uphold standards on the road. It would be illegal to wear ‘inappropriate footwear’ which could put others in danger. There is not a definition for “appropriate footwear in the Highway Code. The law also does not say that that the footwear should have a belt to drive. Therefore, before setting off, Driver should ensure that clothing and footwear do not prevent him/her from using the controls in the correct manner. If flip-flops stopped the driver being in control than he/she could be prosecuted contrary to Highway Code Rule 97. Disobeying national highway laws is committing a criminal offense. As a rule, it will result in a fine, driver license penalty points, or a complete disqualification from driving. Severe prosecutions can result in a prison sentence for offenders. The British Highway Code guidance can also be of use to provide evidence or establish liability in a court of law as per the United Kingdom Road Traffic Acts.