Is it Legal to Drive Barefoot in California?
It is a common myth that it is illegal to drive barefoot in Los Angeles, California. However, the fact is that there is no state law making it legal or illegal to drive without shoes in California. The law does not explicitly address this issue.
However, all drivers have a duty of care to operate motor vehicles safely. Therefore, having the right to drive barefoot does not mean that slipping your shoes off to drive is always a good choice. If driving barefoot endangers others on the road, you could face criminal or civil penalties if you cause an accident while driving barefoot.
California Laws Related to Barefoot Driving
While there is no state law requiring you to wear shoes while driving, if a police officer believes that your failure to wear shoes contributed to the cause of an accident, you could receive a traffic citation. The officer could issue a ticket for reckless driving.
Reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a disregard for the safety of property or other people. Even though reckless driving is a misdemeanor charge, a person could still face a fine and jail time for a conviction of reckless driving. The penalties for a reckless driving charge increase if someone is injured because of reckless driving.
It could be challenging to prove that driving barefoot was reckless. However, the possibility of being charged with a driving infraction for barefoot driving remains, and drivers need to be aware of this fact.
Are Some Shoes More Dangerous to Drive in Than Other Shoes?
A closely related topic to barefoot driving is driving in specific shoes. Some shoes could be more dangerous for driving than other shoes because of the design of the shoe.
For example, flip flops and slides (shoes without a strap across the back) could increase the risk of your foot slipping out of the shoe and off the pedal. The shoes can also slip off your feet and become lodged in between or underneath the pedals.
Shoes with high heels or spikes can get caught on the floor mat. Heavy boots can become lodged between pedals, and slick-bottom shoes can cause a driver’s foot to slip off the pedal. Even uncomfortable shoes can be dangerous for driving because a driver may be distracted by the discomfort.
Driving Barefoot Could Result in Breaking Other Laws
If a driver believes that he may be responsible for causing an accident because he is barefoot, the person may choose to leave the scene of the accident. However, leaving the scene of an accident in California is a crime.
Drivers who fail to stop after a car accident can be charged with hit and run. California Vehicle Code §20002 requires any driver involved in an accident to stop the vehicle and exchange information with the other driver. A driver who fails to stop and exchange information could be charged with hit and run even though the driver did not cause the accident.
Most hit and run charges are misdemeanors unless the accident causes bodily injury to another person. If a driver leaves the scene of an accident knowing that bodily injury to another person is likely, that driver could be arrested for felony hit and run.
The penalties for hit and run convictions can be serious, depending on the circumstances of the hit-and-run charges. A driver convicted of hit and run for an accident causing only property damage can face a fine up to $1,000 and up to six months in county jail.
The penalties for a felony hit and run conviction depend on the severity of the injuries caused by the traffic accident. In many cases, a felony hit and run can result in a fine of up to $10,000 and up to one year in jail or prison. If the car accident resulted in serious bodily injury or a fatality, the hit and run driver faces a minimum of 90 days in jail and up to four years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Additionally, the injured victim could seek additional monetary compensation by contacting a car accident attorney.
In addition to criminal penalties, a hit and run driver can also be held liable in civil court for injuries, damages, and losses caused by the accident. An attorney may be able to help you avoid a misdemeanor hit and run conviction if you agree to accept full responsibility for the cost of the accident. As with other criminal charges, it is usually best to consult a criminal defense attorney before talking to the police or agreeing to a plea deal.