As summer is upon us, there are a number of considerations we have to think of when driving, as the roads get busier, the temperature rises and many of the most common questions start to raise their heads once more, especially about footwear and clothing.
One of those common questions is “can I drive in flip flops”. The answer is that although flip flops are not prohibited as such, there are no specific types of footwear mentioned in the legislation, it is certainly not advisable, and you can be fined for wearing “inappropriate” footwear, which would include flip flops, beach shoes, diving flippers and high heels, amongst others.
Flip flops and sandals are considered by far the most dangerous of all inappropriate footwear. Shoes which don´t fit securely may fall off when driving and can get in the way of the pedals. Equally dangerous is how the foot can slip whilst the shoe remains in contact with the pedal, thus reducing braking time and causing a considerable risk when stopping. High heels also pose their own problems, largely because these shoes are designed to alter the shape of the foot and ankle in order to raise the profile of the wearer.
That´s all very well for a glamorous stroll through a prestigious event, but when sitting in a driving position the shape of the shoe prevents correct contact with the pedals, again reducing the response time. Wearing appropriate footwear is a must when driving.
When you think about the physical process required to make a vehicle go, turn or stop, all of the actions are performed by our hands and feet. With the laws relating to driving, the Reglamento General de Circulacion, article 3.1 says that, ”You have to drive properly avoiding damage to people / things. It is forbidden to drive in a negligent or reckless way.” Although driving in a “reckless” manner might not be the norm for most, it is the word “negligent” which can lead to fines when a person doesn´t realise that they are doing anything wrong.
When you drive with flip flops the risk of being involved in an incident is multiplied. For example, when you drive back home from the beach, your flip flops might be wet and be covered with sand, therefore you have a high risk of losing your flip flops whilst driving or when you use your car pedals. With Flip flops you cannot break or accelerate properly, as they are slippy and loose from your feet, providing less traction under foot.
ALL these factors can end in a traffic incident and can therefore result in you being the cause of such an incident, by driving in a negligent manner. Supposing a lack of control of the clutch makes the car lunge forward and hit something in front, or the reaction time is reduced due to stumbling feet and you are unable to stop before hitting an obstacle, if it is likely that the inappropriate footwear was a contributing factor, the driver may well see a fixed penalty notice issued.
Similarly, if an insurance company decides that inappropriate footwear was a contributing factor, it may lessen the compensation amount in the event of a claim. There are many documented cases of people driving in flip flops or with high heels who have had an incidents where their footwear have been a contributing factor. So there is NO specific article which prohibits the use of any kind of footwear, article 3.1 can be applied to those drivers who have or may be involved in an incident as a consequence of this or not driving properly.
There is a similar situation in the U.K. incidentally, and although we might consider it unique to Spain, it isn´t. Perhaps the number of recorded incidents increase as there is more of a likelihood to visit the beach on a regular basis in certain areas of Spain than in the U.K.
That said, in a recent tragedy in Manchester in the UK, a child was killed when the car she was travelling smashed into a wall. In the images from the aftermath of the crash, a loose fitting sandal could clearly be seen in the foot well, investigators believing that this had become loose from the foot of the driver who was wearing it and became lodged behind the pedals as he tried to brake for a red light. There is no doubt that the driver set out with the intention of killing his daughter that day, but tragically, that was the result of wearing inappropriate footwear. In the UK, Rule 97 of the Highway Codes states that before setting off, you should ensure that “clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner”.
If we consider a driver who is barefoot, for example, there is nothing illegal about this in U.K. law, but controlling the clutch, and even the brakes, can require a lot of pressure, which may prove difficult if a driver is barefoot. Feet can sweat and reduce the traction and wearing of socks or stockings is not ideal either, on account of the pressure needed. This would also result in a potential negligence case in Spain.
Other than in the Highway Code, there is no specific law about footwear in the UK, but wearing inappropriate footwear could contribute to an incident for which accountability could be deemed to be the driver´s if they have not adhered to the rule, and are prevented from using the controls in the correct manner, the same as in Spain. As for choosing the most appropriate shoe for driving, comfort is important and a flat shoe that will not easily slip off is best, not too wide and secure.
You can buy specific driving shores, but laced, velcro or secure slip-on plimsolls or trainers are ideal, so long as they are flat, with rubber grip on the underside which provides excellent traction and control over the pedals. Shoes that allow the driver to feel the pedal through the shoe, whilst still being able to apply sufficient pressure without discomfort, are the best for the job.