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Driving in Flip Flops—Are You Breaking the Law?

Multiple pairs of flip flops

When the summer months hit, we Brits are often guilty of taking things a little too far. Starved of sunshine for so much of the year, it becomes our sacred duty to make the most of any hot weather that is thrown our way. Grown men proudly stride topless and sweaty down the high street, music worthy of an Ibiza foam party is blasted from previously sleepy terraced houses and we happily surrender our bare skin to the sun’s beams until it turns a shocking shade of pink.

It’s not just our behaviour that changes when the temperature rises—our wardrobes require a rapid overhaul too. And so it is that we turn to the humble flip flop. The most basic and convenient of shoe designs, these sandals allow your feet to breathe and make you feel like you’re on holiday, even if in reality you’re simply making a dash to the local Spar for some Rocket Lollies.

When it comes to driving, though, is it safe to wear your staple summer shoes? Rumours abound that wearing flip flops behind the wheel might not only be unsafe, but potentially illegal! Luckily, PassMeFast is here to clear up any confusion relating to this matter. Join us as we explore whether driving in flip flops is breaking the law…

The official rules

cartoon silhouette of police officer

On the face of it, driving in flip flops is not illegal. There is no law stating that certain footwear is not permitted to be worn by the driver of a vehicle. This does not, however, mean that you can’t get into legal trouble as a result of wearing flip flops while driving. Like many rules, the guidelines on this are purposefully written in a way that is open to interpretation. The onus is put on the individual in question to make a sensible choice.

The section of the Highway Code we’re interested in here can be found within rule 97:

“Before setting off. You should ensure that: 

(…) Clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner.”

If you think about it, wearing flip flops could prevent you from ‘using the controls in the correct manner’. So, while technically not illegal, driving in this kind of footwear could result in you being punished by the long arm of the law.

How footwear can affect your driving

Cartoon road barrier

Many learners will wear a particular style of shoe for their lessons. This is often something that is comfortable and somewhat flexible, like a trainer or loafer. It can come as a bit of a shock, therefore, when they qualify and have to adjust to driving while wearing a wider variety of footwear. The way the pedals feel, the ease with which you can switch between them and the pressure you have to exert to depress each one can be significantly different.

Flip flops in particular are more loose-fitting and bendy than the average shoe. There is a much higher risk that they could slip off mid-drive and, if you are very unlucky, one of the straps could even get caught around a pedal.

On top of these fairly obvious hazards, you also need to consider the fact that because flip flops are designed to be light, you are forced to push down slightly harder on the pedals to achieve the desired result. This means the time it takes to brake is lengthened. Add to this the increased risk of your foot slipping off the pedal altogether and you have a very real hazard on your hands!

In short, the footwear you choose to drive in has a big impact on how much control you have over a vehicle. As a result, choosing an inappropriate shoe has major safety implications.

Driving barefoot

Wing mirror showing feet sticking out of car window
Image source: anja. via Unsplash

At the extreme end of inappropriate driving footwear, there is the example of wearing nothing on your feet at all! That’s right—it’s not unheard of for people to drive barefoot. Nearly all of the negative consequences listed above are only exacerbated if you choose to drive with no shoes on. Unless you are particularly skilled at driving like this, it is very hard to achieve and maintain a solid grip on the pedals with your bare sole.

Despite these risks, a poll by the RAC reveals that 58% of UK drivers say they have driven barefoot before. We can only hope that these were one-off occasions that took place on private land!

Potential penalties

Tipped over jar with coins spilling out of the mouth
Image source: Josh Appel via Unsplash

If driving in flip flops does result in you being reprimanded by the authorities, your rule-breaking is likely to fall under the driving without due cause or attention category. The severity of the punishment can vary dramatically, depending on the nature of your error. Be warned, however, that the maximum penalty for dangerous driving is a £5,000 fine and 9 points on your licence. In other words, you could lose a whole heap of cash and your freedom to drive! Of course, if the crime is so serious that you end up in court, it could even land you some jail time.

Even at the minor end of the spectrum, the penalty isn’t exactly soft. The best you can hope for if caught driving erratically is a £100 fine and 3 points on your licence. Is it really worth it when you could just pop some proper shoes on?

Good to know…

If you are involved in an accident, your insurance company may use the fact that you were wearing unsuitable footwear to invalidate your claim. Something to keep in mind!

Tips for avoiding fashion-related fines

Checklist

What constitutes a style faux pas is often debatable. Indeed, one person’s favourite outfit may be considered a crime against fashion by another! PassMeFast, though, is only interested in shielding you from fashion-related mistakes that could cause you to break the rules of the road. Here’s a few handy tips that will help you make the right choice when it comes to driving footwear:

    • Identify the shoes in your collection that are suitable for driving—they should be well-fitting, have good grip, allow for ankle movement and have a regular sole (not too thin and not too thick)
    • Set aside a specific pair of shoes that are comfortable to drive in and keep them in your car
    • Learn the best way to keep your car cool, so that you don’t feel the need to wear flip flops for comfort
  • If you’re driving to a place where you want to wear your flip flops, chuck them in the boot and pop them on when you reach your destination

You’re not required to go full-on Goldilocks here, but you could take a small leaf out of her book while you search for a pair of driving shoes that are juuust right!


Driving in flip flops won’t necessarily get you into trouble with the law, but you are taking a risk when you wear them behind the wheel. Even if you are able to drive with them on, you won’t have the same level of control over the vehicle as you would with a normal pair of shoes. Remember, just because something isn’t technically illegal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Think twice next time you slide on some flip flops before hopping in the car!

By Isobel Robb

Isobel enjoys the freedom of the open road and loves driving to new places. She's here to offer helpful hints and tips to improve your motoring skills. When not keeping up to date with the latest driving info you can find her discovering new restaurants or exhausting her Netflix subscription.

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