Is It Illegal to Drive Barefoot in California?

No state in the U.S. has a law against driving barefoot. You will not break any criminal laws by simply driving barefoot in California.

Just because you can, however, doesn’t mean you should. Although California has no laws against driving barefoot, you should avoid this dangerous practice. It can increase your risk of getting into an accident and expose you to possible civil liability for any injuries you cause.

Here is an overview of the dangers and legal risks you run when you drive barefoot in California.

Illegal Driving Activities in California

California has many traffic laws. In addition to the traffic laws passed by the state, local counties and cities can also pass traffic laws, as long as they do not conflict with state laws.

The police and California Highway Patrol (CHP) enforce these laws in two ways:

Primary Enforcement

Primary enforcement means that the police officer can stop and cite you for committing the violation. The most common traffic laws subject to primary enforcement are speed limit laws.

If a California police officer sees you speeding, the police officer can stop you. The police officer does not need to suspect or prove any other violation.

Secondary Enforcement

Secondary enforcement means that a police officer cannot stop and cite you for the specific violation. However, if you get stopped for another reason, the officer can cite you for secondary violations they observe or discover in the process.

For example, California bans all use of electronics by drivers under the age of 18. However, officers can only enforce this law if the driver is stopped for another infraction. As stated in the statute, officers cannot stop drivers “for the sole purpose” of determining whether the driver was using electronics.

But suppose that a driver commits another violation, like tailgating. When officers stop the driver, they can investigate why the driver tailgated. If they determine that the driver is under 18 and was using electronics, the officers can cite the driver for tailgating and for violating the electronics use law.

California Traffic Laws that May Cover Barefoot Driving

As you may recall from your driver’s education course, barefoot driving can interfere with your ability to drive safely. Driving barefoot can cause your foot to slip off the accelerator, brake, and clutch pedals. It can also limit the pressure you can put onto the pedals.

Criminal Liability for Barefoot Driving

If driving barefoot causes you to drive erratically, you could get stopped and cited for your erratic driving. Whether you fail to yield to a pedestrian because you cannot stop in time or your speed changes unpredictably, an officer can stop you to investigate the cause of your unsafe driving.

Once stopped, the officer can cite you for any primary violations you committed. This citation would not be issued for driving barefoot, but rather for the effects of driving barefoot.

If you get into an accident or cause a near-miss, an officer can cite you for reckless driving. This violation occurs when you drive with willful or wanton disregard for others’ safety. The officer could use the fact that you were driving barefoot, despite the common knowledge of its dangers, as evidence of recklessness.

Civil Liability for Barefoot Driving

Courts can hold you liable in a personal injury lawsuit even if you did not break any traffic laws. Most car accident lawsuits require the accident victim to prove the at-fault driver’s negligence. Negligence has a lower standard of proof than recklessness.

To prove negligence, an accident victim must prove that the at-fault driver did something that a reasonably prudent driver would not do in similar circumstances. Barefoot driving would likely fall under the umbrella of negligence if it causes an accident and injures someone. Reasonably prudent drivers understand the dangers of barefoot driving and avoid doing it.

If a court holds a barefoot driver liable after an accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

You Should Avoid Driving Barefoot in California

Driving barefoot is legal in California. However, it can come with legal consequences. The best way to avoid these consequences is to avoid driving barefoot in California.

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