The recent photograph of a Texas trucker walking on the shoulder of Route 80 near Elmwood Park as his rig is engulfed in flames behind him has garnered considerable press interest for something other than the spectacular truck explosion itself: the flip flops he is wearing. To many viewers, they seem decidedly flimsy and out of place in a shot so centrally marked by steel and destruction.
The question the footwear prompts: Are flip flops legal behind the wheel?
It turns out they are, in every state in the country. Moreover, driving barefoot isn’t proscribed anywhere, either, save in Alabama, where the ban only covers motorcyclists.
A tandem question, though, concerns whether driving in something other than a sturdy pair of shoes or boots is safe to begin with.
Apparently, no definitive study yet exists that addresses that, specifically one that focuses on a connection between insubstantial footwear and car or other motor vehicle accidents.
Still, people have strong views. “A shoe that slides or flops can negatively impact the foot on the pedals,” says Pam Fischer, director of the New Jersey Office of Highway Traffic Safety. “I always stress the importance of having something sturdy on your feet that doesn’t impede your ability to safely and firmly apply pressure to the accelerator and brake.”
Fischer’s comment seems borne out by a recent insurance study in England in which 750 women were surveyed regarding their footwear when driving. Eighty percent of them stated that they wore what they considered to be inappropriate footwear, including stilettos. Ten percent of them said they had either been in accidents or near-misses because their shoes or flip flops slipped or got jammed under or between the pedals.
Notwithstanding the results of that study, though, and given the great focus these days on motorists using cell phones and texting while driving, it seems highly unlikely that what a driver is wearing on his or her feet will become the subject of a national debate any time soon.
Related Resource: www.northjersey.com “Do you drive with flip flops? Should you?” October 6, 2010