Personally, I think that my driving improves when I do it barefoot. Now, that does not mean I drive well without shoes on. It just means that, without them, I feel that I am a little less dangerous behind the wheel because I believe it gives me a better ‘feel’ for the pedals and greater control of the accelerator and brake.
Unlike my position on this issue, which is clear and straightforward, our national road rules are very, very unclear on the subject of barefoot driving.
There is no road rule that says: ‘You must wear shoes while driving.’ However, each state and territory has a road rule that says that you are only legally allowed to drive a vehicle if you have proper ‘control’ of it. If you are not in proper control of the vehicle, you are in breach of this rule and, if caught by the police, likely to be fined and lose demerit points.
Now, the question is, if a police officer pulls you over and looks in your car, and sees your ten little piggies on the brake and gas pedals, will they decide that you are not in proper control of your vehicle? This is ultimately a subjective question that will come down to the mood and personal views of the police officer who catches you.
A police officer that loves the road rules might give you a fine for not wearing shoes while driving, on the basis that without shoes your feet might slip off the pedals, and so you are not in proper control of the vehicle.
A police officer who really loves the road rules might even give you a fine if he or she catches you wearing thongs or sandals while driving, on the grounds that the strap of the thong or sandal could become stuck on the pedal and cause you to lose control of your car.
A nice, sensible officer would, I hope, make a decision on whether you have proper control of your car by looking at how you are driving. Swerving all over the road? Not wearing shoes is not going to help you get out of trouble. Driving sensibly and in complete control of your vehicle, but not wearing shoes? I like to think that this is OK and that no police officer would fine you for not wearing shoes while driving (or even know about your barefoot driving, for that matter).
On a related issue, I thought there might be some special rule that applies to the type of footwear that motorbike or (*sniggers*) scooter riders must wear to protect their feet from injury. But no, there is no specific rule that says you must wear shoes when riding a motorbike or scooter, so again it comes down to whether you are in ‘control’ of your two-wheeled hog if you ride it barefoot or with thongs or sandals on.
Let me answer your question, finally. Is driving / riding without shoes on illegal, or is this just a myth? In my view, it is probably illegal as you have to assume that the police officer who stops you while you are barefoot driving is going to be a real stickler for the road rules. Into taking risks? That’s cool, go ahead and drive barefoot you rebel you. I’m not a risk taker, so I have decided to wear shoes while driving from now on. I see this as one of those ‘assume the worst, hope for the best’ situations.
One final thought: how about we agree to a compromise on this whole barefoot driving thing? Why don’t you and I each agree to keep a pair of shoes in our cars, tucked safely but close to hand on the passenger side floor. You never know when they might come in handy, or footsy. If the police pull one of us over, we can stealthily reach over, grab our shoes, and slip them on. Do it quickly and quietly enough and our rule-loving police officer friend will be none the wiser.