RAC Cars News


Avoid Flip Flops Behind The Wheel

By raccars Published

The humble flip flop is proving an unexpected talking point in the motoring press this week, after a report that wearing them has adverse effects on road safety. Apparently, 10% of drivers have had a near miss while driving in flip flops, making them riskier footwear than high heels behind the wheel.

About one in three motorists admits to having worn the flimsy summer sandals while at the wheel, contributing to 1.4 million near misses, usually as a result of the flip flop getting trapped underneath a pedal. Flip flops are not the only culprits however. While 51% of survey respondents admit to struggling to drive in them, 49% also claimed difficulty behind the wheel, with bare feet, wedge heels, espadrilles and sandals in general.

Studies have shown that the real danger arises while braking, with flip flops slowing braking times by up to 0.13 seconds or, in real terms, a distance of 3.2 metres when travelling at 60mph. Tests in simulation timed the action of putting foot to brake pedal at 0.02 seconds in a pair of wedge heels, but double that in flip flops at 0.04 seconds. In a similar manner, braking in flip flops resulted in a lower force per square metre on the pedal, compared to wedge heels.

The study involved polling 1,055 motorists, with 60% confessing to driving in inappropriate footwear. Twenty percent of motorists have continued to drive in shoes they admit are unsuitable even after experiencing an accident or near miss, while wearing them. Women are the worst culprits for unsuitable footwear in general, with 10% admitting they have driven in shoes in which they struggle to walk, but 36% take the precaution of carrying a pair of shoes for driving in the car, compared to only 12% of men.

A fifth of drivers claimed complete ignorance, saying the idea that their safety could be affected by the footwear used while at the wheel had never crossed their minds.

While there is no law banning any particular footwear or going barefoot while driving in England, if unsuitable footwear is deemed to contribute to any accident, it could leave people at more risk of a charge of dangerous driving or not paying due care and attention.

A number of countries already take the issue seriously, with driving in flip flops illegal in Germany, France and Spain among others and subject to on the spot fines. In Spain, the law goes even further, banning any backless shoes, footwear which is open at the front, high heels and driving barefoot.

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