Driving Barefoot


The information below was provided by Jason R. Heimbaugh, based on research he did in 1994. Except as noted in a few cases, we do not have any current updates, but we have no reason to believe that there have been any changes in what was reported by Mr. Heimbaugh.

This information was originally published in the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban and archived at the urbanlegends.com website. It was recovered from archive.org (see the links in the logo below) and reformatted for display here after urbanlegends.com disappeared from the web.

The AFU and Urban Legend Archive
Legal
Driving Barefoot
driving barefoot

From: jrh@dixie.aiss.uiuc.edu (Jason R. Heimbaugh)
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.urban
Subject: The (Almost) Definitive Answer to Driving Barefoot in America (LONG)
Date: 27 Jul 1994 22:11:28 GMT

NOTE: I sent my initial letters to all 50 states, and the District of Columbia two months ago and have received 42 replies. I don't currently have the time to remail requests to the 9 dead beat, lazy ass, worthless states that miserably failed to respond (Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, South Carolina Utah, and Washington). If you work for the DMV in one of these states and are reading this here, it doesn't surprise me.

Anyways, I will send requests to state police departments sometime in September when my schedule frees up. But, based on the parallel information I've already received from AAA, I don't think the results will be different.

Driving Barefoot in America

Written & researched by: Jason R. Heimbaugh (jrh@uiuc.edu)
URL: ftp://cathouse.org/pub/cathouse/urban.legends/legal/driving.barefoot
Last updated: July 27, 1994

The AFU FAQ (dated June 10, 1994) says (quotation cited under fair use):

"WILD LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
F. Driving barefoot is illegal most places (Nope, but it's dumb to goad cops)
T. Driving barefoot is illegal in the state of Kentucky.
Copyrighted 1991-94. All rights reserved by Terry Chan (twchan@lbl.gov)."

I didn't like the "most places" phrase and would prefer a "everywhere except" phrase, so I sent a letter requesting information to the Department of Motor Vehicles (or the closest thing I could find) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The results show that the FAQ is almost right. The one error is that it is *not* illegal to drive barefoot in the state of Kentucky. This information comes from Charles F. Brown, Director, Division of Driver Licensing, who stated, "After a thorough search of chapters 189 and 281 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, I can find no evidence of any prohibition against operating a motor vehicle while being barefooted. I also contacted [the] Kentucky State Police's office of legal counsel. I was informed that they too know of no statutory limitations for driving while being barefooted."

Seward W. Goss, Administrative Assistant, Planning and Research Unit, Alabama Department of Public Safety, stated that while driving a car barefoot is legal, anyone operating or riding on a motorcycle is required to wear shoes ($32-5A-245. Headgear and shoes required for motorcycle riders; approval of headgear; responsiblity for juvenile riders; sale of helmets. Subsections (b) & (f).) See included law below for details.

Janet Wilcox, Analyst, Communications Section, Bureau of Driver & Vehicle Records, Michigan Department of State noted that while there is no law making driving barefoot illegal, "if a police officer feels that it is a careless driving practise, he may ticket you for careless driving." Not quite as strong, was Lt. Col. John F. Lyding, Director, Division of Driver Licensing and School Vehicle Safety of the Maryland Department of Transportation who wrote:

"However, *in my opinion* [emphasis added], a law enforcement officer might charge an individual under either of the two articles listed below if the barefoot driving contributed to:

  • $21-901(a) Reckless driving vehicle in wanton and willful disregard for the safety of persons and property; or
  • $21-901(b) Negligent driving vehicle in careless and imprudent manner endangering property, life and person.

A driver charged under these articles or any article would have the right to trial where the 'barefoot' aspect of the case might be disputed."

Brian Grisham, Staff Attorney, Tennessee Department of Safety found no provision in the Tennessee Code Annotated about driving barefoot, but noted that a review of all local ordinances would be necessary in order to obtain an definitive answer. Blow me for not delving in that far - get it yourself if you need that much detail (don't forget the local ordinances in *all* states while you're at it).

In addition, the following states: Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and Wyoming all made the point that even though it was not illegal, driving barefoot was unsafe and, therefore, not a recommended practise.

Based on this information, I would suggest changing the FAQ to read:

F. Driving barefoot is illegal. (Nope, but it's dumb to goad cops.)
T. ...Unless you're operating/riding a motorcycle in Alabama.
Tb....You *might* be ticketed in MI/MD for careless/reckless driving.
T. ...It's not "recommended" by Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, or Wyoming.
T. ...Jason *REALLY* needs to get laid^H^H^H^H a life.

Then again, 4 lines is an awful lot for such a trivial point. Oh well, this document turned out to be 1350 lines!

Indiana, Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin informed me that this and other information was available in the American Automobile Association (AAA) book, "Digest of Motor Laws". This is the information which AAA had obtained (this much material might be exceeding fair use, but those bastards stranded me two straight times before I dropped them; they still owe me):

American States

Alabama:
Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted.
Exception: motorcycle rider.

Ohio:
Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted but not recommended.

California:
Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is not prohibited.

Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming:
Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted.

District of Columbia

Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted.

American Territories

American Samoa, Peurto Rico, Virgin Islands:
Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted.

Guam:
Driving Barefoot: No information.

Canadian Provinces & Territories

Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, New Foundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory:
Barefoot Driving: Operation of a motor vehicle by a driver with bare feet is permitted.

Some additional information about driving barefoot in Canada can be found * here.

Notes:

  1. AAA did not include the two "warnings" about Michigan and Maryland that I received from direct correspondence.
  2. AAA did note that Ohio did not recommend driving barefoot, but mentioned nothing about Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, or Wyoming.
  3. AAA made no mention of the possibility of local ordinances banning driving barefoot in Tennessee.
  4. AAA also included a bunch of worthless information about Canada. Like anyone cares.

Favorite Quote (Coincidentally from Illinois):

"It is always a pleasure to respond to citizens interested in familiarizing themselves with traffic laws."

Best Reproduction Error Award (My Fault):

"As your correspondence indicates, it is a common misconception among many citizens that suck action is illegal."

Best Joke Relating to Subject:

Whitney: You'd think that Kentucky would be the one place you *could* drive barefoot.
Me^H^HSomeone: It's to keep the wimmin folk from drivin'.

What follows are my initial letter and all of the responses I received, reproduced as closely as plain ASCII characters can allow. Letterheads are also included for those wishing addresses for other inquiries.

initial letter

Alabama response
Alaska response
Arizona
Arkansas
California response
Colorado response
Connecticut response
Delaware response
District of Columbia response
Florida response
Georgia response
Hawaii (2012 email)
Idaho response
Illinois response
Indiana response
Iowa response
Kansas (2012 email)

Kentucky response
Louisiana response
Maine response
Maryland response
Massachusetts (2012 email)
Michigan response
Minnesota response
Mississippi response
Missouri response
Montana response
Nebraska response
Nevada response
New Hampshire
New Jersey response
New Mexico response
New York response
North Carolina response

North Dakota response
Ohio response
Oklahoma response
Oregon response
Pennsylvania response
Rhode Island response
South Carolina
South Dakota response
Tennessee response
Texas response
Utah
Vermont response
Virginia response
Washington (2012 email)
West Virginia response
Wisconsin response
Wyoming response