Getting into your car after a long day, it can be tempting to kick off uncomfortable dress shoes in favor of driving home barefoot. If you’re wearing high heels or thick-soled or stiff shoes, driving barefoot may even seem like the safer choice. But what if you get pulled over while driving without shoes, or worse, you’re involved in an accident? Is it illegal to drive barefoot in New York?
Do You Have to Wear Shoes While Driving in New York?
In a word, no. There is no New York law that specifically prohibits barefoot driving, nor is there a law that requires footwear. If you are pulled over by a police officer while not wearing shoes, you will not be issued a citation for driving barefoot.
However, just because barefoot driving is legal doesn’t mean that it can’t have consequences. If you are in an accident while not wearing shoes, the other party (or their insurance company) could argue that being barefoot contributed to the accident. If a court agrees, you could be found liable or partially liable for the accident. Read on to learn more about driving without shoes in New York.
Is It Dangerous to Drive Barefoot?
New York drivers are expected to operate their vehicles as safely as possible. One danger associated with driving barefoot is that it can feel much different than wearing shoes—if you’re not used to the feel of pedals on your bare feet, it may be a distraction, or cause you to apply too much pressure to either the gas or the brake pedal. If your pedals are wet, bare feet may be more likely to slide off the pedals—especially if you press them quickly. Faced with a sudden situation where you need to apply the gas or brake quickly, these easy-to-overlook concerns can become critical safety issues.
What About Flip Flops?
Not all footwear is created equal when it comes to safe driving. Flip flops and other backless shoes have the potential to bend or slip off and lodge under the gas or brake pedals. This can be dangerous if you need to quickly slow down or accelerate. Slippers and other types of shoes not secured around the ankle pose a similar threat.
Wedges and platform shoes with thick and/or unbendable soles can make it difficult to feel how much pressure you are applying to the pedals. It can be harder to tell what your foot is touching and makes it more likely to tap both pedals at once, or miss them entirely.
The safest position for your foot while driving is with your heel planted firmly on the car floor. High heeled shoes remove your heel from the floor and can orient your foot at a difficult angle. This limits or removes the contact your heel has with the car mat and can make it harder for your foot to make contact with the appropriate pedal. A very pointed toe or slippery shoe bottom can also make sudden braking difficult.
The bottom line? Any shoe that puts your foot in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable position can pose a hazard for the safe operation of your vehicle.
Legal Implications of Barefoot Driving
Even though barefoot driving is legal, if it causes you to operate your vehicle in a negligent manner and leads to an accident, you can still be liable for damages. In New York, every driver is responsible for operating their vehicle in a safe and careful manner. Negligence occurs when a driver fails to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. It is not illegal to drink hot coffee while driving; however, if it spills in your lap and you swerve into an oncoming vehicle, you will likely be responsible for the damages caused by negligent driving. Likewise, if your bare foot slips off a wet brake pedal and you hit a pedestrian, you may be liable for damages—not because driving without shoes is illegal, but because a jury may find that you failed to use reasonable care when you drove barefoot with wet pedals.
In addition, even if you did not cause the accident, New York uses a “pure comparative fault” rule when multiple parties share responsibility for an accident. That means that the plaintiff in an auto accident case will have his or her damages reduced by the percentage equal to his or her share of fault. For example, if you are involved in an accident and a jury determines that you are entitled to damages in the amount of $100,000 but also that you are 20 percent at fault for the accident, you will only be entitled to $80,000 of damages. If you are in an accident where you were driving without shoes and your foot slipped off the brake and contributed to the accident, the amount of damages you can recover may be reduced by the percentage of your contribution.
What to Do if You Get in an Accident While Driving Barefoot
If you’ve been involved in an accident while driving barefoot in New York, exchange the required information with the other driver (name, address and the name and policy number of their insurance company) and record their driver’s license number. Do not have any other discussion with the driver or provide any unnecessary information. Cooperate with law enforcement officers and tell your version of the accident, but do not make unnecessary remarks—anything you say may become a part of the police record that will be released to the insurance companies. Inform your insurance company within a reasonable timeframe (each policy is different), but do not speak with the other driver’s insurance representatives, and contact an experienced New York personal injury lawyer immediately.
Contact The Law Office of Evan W. Kohn Today
If you’ve been involved in an accident while driving barefoot in New York, The Law Office of Evan W. Kohn can help. We will analyze your case, determine fault, calculate damages, help you understand your potential liability, and negotiate for the maximum possible settlement. Call us today at 718-409-5500 for a free and confidential consultation about your case.