Is Driving Without Shoes Illegal in Australia? (2020 Update)
Although driving without shoes may be the more comfortable option, it's something you may want to think twice about. Learn what the rules are here.
Driving without shoes can be a more comfortable option than driving whilst wearing something that affects your ability to accelerate and brake. However, when getting out on the roads, there are many strict rules which motorists have to comply with. These measures all aim to curb the number of accidents and deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, however there are inevitably some grey areas where the law isn’t completely clear. In this article, we’ll answer the commonly asked question – are drivers required to wear shoes? The short answer is no, they are not – but there are other important factors to consider before you do so.
Driving offences in Australia
Most citizens are well aware of the big no-no’s when it comes to driving. These include offences such as speeding, running a red light, driving recklessly or driving under the influence. However, there are situations where the law isn’t quite as clear. These are usually cases where something has the potential to adversely affect our driving, but does not have a direct impact on our ability to drive safely. A common example of this is clothing and footwear, which can directly effect how we drive.
One important thing to note here is that all driving offences are strict liability offences. This means that regardless of whether or not you intended to commit the offence, you are still guilty in the eyes of law for the act of simply doing it. For example, if you are caught speeding on a main road, saying that you did not intend to speed (or didn’t realise how fast you were going) won’t stop you from being punished. This is why it’s always important to know the laws when it comes to driving, because claiming that you didn’t know that you were committing an offence won’t hold up in Court. Driving offences also attract severe penalties, including fines, demerit points, loss of licence and in some cases, incarceration.
Enforcing The Law
Since 2018, deaths on the road have increased by 4.6%. In 2019, 1,085 people died. Lawmakers and police enforcement have since taken on a more active role in preventing the frequency of road accidents. This includes sanctioning drivers who wear, use or have items which can distract them whilst driving. One good example of this is the introduction of mobile phone detection cameras in New South Wales in December 2019. If drivers are caught using their phones, a $344 fine will apply along with the loss of 5 demerit points.
What footwear do I need to wear?
No Australian states or territories have actually outlawed wearing inappropriate footwear while driving, and this includes wearing no footwear at all. However, rule 297 of the Australian Road Rules 2008 provides that the driver must still take all precautions to drive in the safest manner possible. If your footwear compromises your ability to drive safely, then you are technically in breach of this law. In the event that an accident does occur, further investigations relating to whether or not the driver’s footwear (or lack thereof) played a role will take place. This can affect any insurance claims you’ve made and also whether you’ll be prosecuted by the police for your role in the accident. Guilty parties may end up paying a substantial fine along with the loss of demerit points. Depending on the severity of the accident, more serious penalties may apply.
Driving without shoes
Whatever situation it may be, when you drive it’s important to be focused and sober with as little to distract you as possible. There is no law itself stating that you must wear appropriate footwear, but you can still get into trouble if you wear footwear that is not suitable to drive in. Let’s see how below.
Say you were driving wearing thongs. This isn’t a problem in and of itself, however the strap on your right thong broke. The strap got caught on your brake pedal just as you were coming to a stop at a set of traffic lights. However, you were not able to slow down in time due to the interference caused by the broken strap on your shoe. You hit the car in front, resulting in a four car pile up. The police decide to investigate the cause of this accident, as two people sustained neck injuries. The police find that you were at fault, and further, that it was your broken thong which caused the accident. You are fined a hefty amount and your driver’s licence ends up being suspended for three months.
What should I do?
If driving with shoes such as thongs increases risk due to the strap’s ability to catch on the pedal then it’s a good idea to change them. The same applies for using the vehicle without shoes. Although this will depend on one’s control of their vehicle in such a situation. For example, if a driver feels that operating a vehicle with certain shoes poses a threat, driving without shoes is actually advisable. Shoes such as stilettos, steel-toed work boots and certain flats may inhibit one’s control over a vehicle. This presents a good case for driving without shoes. In many cases, driving without shoes may be the safest option.
Ultimately, to avoid adding another factor to consider in incidents, wear proper shoes and drive with bare feet if your shoes aren’t appropriate to drive in. You’d hate for inappropriate footwear to put you at fault in the event of a car accident, or to put other motorists at risk. Inappropriate footwear can count as a factor in the event of a crash. It’s important to reinforce however, that driving without shoes is perfectly legal. If you’re ever charged with a similar offence, you can contact a specialist traffic lawyer to help you.
Dominic is the CEO of Lawpath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.