Driving Instruction

Is It Legal to Drive Without Shoes in Virginia?

October 19, 2021

Are you wondering, is driving barefoot illegal in VA? 

We get questions about driving with your shoes off frequently. Other common questions include:

  • Is it illegal to drive barefoot in Virginia?
  • Can you drive barefoot safely?
  • Can you get a ticket for driving barefoot?
  • Is it against the law to drive barefoot?
  • Why is it illegal to drive barefoot?

Maybe you’ve heard that it’s illegal to drive barefoot. Or, perhaps you’re unsure what the law says about driving barefoot.

For those who want to know, “Can you drive without shoes safely and/or legally?” this is the article for you!

In this article we’ll be answering all your questions regarding driving barefoot, like “Do I have to wear shoes while driving?” and “Is it illegal to drive barefoot in VA?” 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about driving with shoes off safely and legally. Let’s dive right in!

1. Is It Against the Law to Drive Barefoot?

Let’s get this big question out of the way first. 

The truth is, it is legal to drive without shoes. It is not against the law to drive barefoot. 

In the 90’s, a man named Jason Heimbaugh sent letters to the DMVs of all 50 states asking “Is it legal to drive without shoes?” Though there was some variation in responses, ultimately all 50 DMVs confirmed there are no laws in any state saying people must wear shoes while driving.

The idea that it’s illegal to drive barefoot is a persistent urban legend. 

2. Is Driving Barefoot Illegal in VA?

A lot has changed since Jason Heimbaugh sent his letters. Is it now illegal to drive barefoot in VA?

Though there are other new driving laws in Virginia, the answer to the question, “is driving barefoot illegal in VA?” is still no.

The Commonwealth of Virginia encourages drivers to wear “safe footwear”. Driving barefoot is officially discouraged, as it may reduce control of the vehicle.  

That said, driving with your shoes off is not against any law in Virginia.

3. Can you get a Ticket for Driving Barefoot?

Yes. You CAN.

It may come as a surprise, given the fact that we just specified that it’s legal to drive without shoes, but yes, you can get a ticket for driving barefoot. 

If a police officer thinks your shoes (or lack of shoes) is making your driving unsafe  - particularly if being barefoot contributed to causing an accident - the officer CAN write you a ticket. 

However, since driving with your shoes off isn’t against the law, the ticket will be for “reckless driving” or for “distracted driving.” 

It’s your responsibility to drive in a safe and attentive manner. If your shoes (or lack of shoes) causes a safety hazard, you’re liable to get a ticket for negligence.

4. Why is it People Think it’s Illegal to Drive Barefoot? 

If driving barefoot isn’t actually illegal in any state, then why do so many people wonder, “Why is it illegal to drive without shoes?”

It’s easy to imagine that driving without shoes might be against the law, since most people do wear shoes most of the time, and it can be challenging to drive barefoot.

As with all urban legends, this one stays alive through anonymous anecdotes (often second or third hand) of people being given tickets for driving barefoot. 

These anecdotes may or may not be true. But the tickets themselves were probably for reckless driving or negligence, since driving barefoot is not itself against the law. 

5. Can You Drive Safely Without Shoes?

You may be wondering, do I have to wear shoes while driving in order to be a safe driver

Whether or not it is safe to drive without shoes is somewhat a matter of opinion—there are pros and cons to driving barefoot. 

On one hand, bare feet may have more sensitivity, and thus more control.

On the other hand, the sensitivity of feet (especially if you’re used to driving with shoes) can make it difficult to use the appropriate amount of force on the pedals. Additionally, not wearing shoes changes the distance between your seat and the pedals, which can throw off a driver’s muscle memory. 

What’s not a matter of opinion, however, is that certain kinds of shoes are definitely more dangerous than driving completely barefoot.

6. Which Shoes are More Dangerous than Driving With Your Shoes Off?

When it comes to footwear, certain kinds of shoes can increase the risk of accidents more than wearing no shoes at all! Here’s what to avoid:

  • Shoes that can get stuck to the pedals: Open-toed shoes and open-back shoes like sandals, slippers, or flip flops can get hooked on the pedal. Similarly, long, dangling laces can get tangled around the pedal.
  • Shoes that can get wedged UNDER the pedal: Shoes that are liable to fall off or break. (Flip flops, I’m looking at you again!) In this category, kicking your shoes off while driving is much more dangerous than simply being barefoot from the beginning.
  • Shoes that are likely to lose grip and slip: Flip flops or loose sandals can slip off your foot while you are trying to press the pedal. Slick-soled dress shoes are also dangerous.
  • Shoes that are large and heavy: Various kinds of boots - especially work boots - can reduce driver’s sensitivity and control.
  • High-heeled shoes or wedges: These kinds of shoes make the driver vulnerable to twisting an ankle while applying pressure to the pedals. 
  • Reaching down towards your feet while driving: Adjusting your shoes, your socks, or taking your shoes off all create a distraction and temporarily limits the driver’s vision etc.

Be mindful of what’s on your feet when you sit down behind the wheel. You don’t want your shoes to create an unnecessary driving hazard. 

7. Can Driving Barefoot Impact my Liability in the Case of an Accident?

In a word, no.

Your liability in the case of an accident is determined by who is at “fault” for causing the accident, not by what you were (or weren’t) wearing on your feet. 

Footwear may contribute to a driver causing an accident, but it doesn’t change the driver’s responsibility. All that matters is which driver is at fault for the accident. 

If you don’t want to be liable, drive (and dress) in such a way that you don’t cause accidents.

Stay Up To Date with New Driving Laws in Virginia

Driving with your shoes off is a common topic that comes with many questions:

  • Is it against the law to drive barefoot?
  • Can you drive without shoes?
  • Do I have to wear shoes while driving?
  • Is driving barefoot illegal in VA?

As we stated in this article, it’s not illegal to drive barefoot in VA or any other state. However, footwear can affect your driving ability. And, getting a ticket for driving barefoot because you caused an accident is possible.

It’s our hope that you will use this information in this article to make wise, informed choices about what to wear on your feet while driving. 

And if you want to become an all-around safer driver, consider taking an online driver improvement course. Some benefits of this course include: 

  1. Refreshing your driving knowledge 
  2. Learning new defensive driving techniques 
  3. Staying up to date on new driving laws in Virginia
  4. Getting up to 5 points deducted from your license

Colonial Driving School in Colonial Heights Virginia is a fully certified, full service driving school. We aim to be your one-stop-shop for all your driving needs. We offer Private Driving Lessons, court ordered Driving School, Driver’s Ed class, and Behind-The-Wheel, for both teens and adults. We even offer services in Spanish and Portuguese! If you have any questions about driving, give us a call