There’s a common misconception in Australia that it is illegal to drive while you’re wearing thongs, or flip-flops as some people call them.
- You can wear thongs and drive in Australia
- It’s not illegal, but they are not the smartest footwear for driving
- You might actually be better off barefoot
That’s not true. It is perfectly legal for you to wear your three-pluggers while you’re driving – but it is not necessarily the smartest thing you can do on the road.
Thongs can be dangerous to drive in. Your foot isn’t enclosed, you typically have less grip on the pedals, and because of their elasticated nature you might find the strap of the thong can get caught where it shouldn’t.
The Australian Road Rules book – not a legally binding annotation on vehicle laws, but the guidelines by which many jurisdictions make their laws – has a specific section about “driving without proper control of the vehicle” [Rule 297].
If you were to be involved in an accident and it was found that you driving in thongs had some kind of impact on the incident, it could be interpreted that you didn’t have proper control. Further, it could be interpreted that you were driving in a manner negligent to other road users, and the fines and penalties for that are not small.
Opinions are mixed as to whether it is safer to drive barefoot or wearing thongs, but the underlying consideration here is that drivers should wear whatever footwear is appropriate, and footwear that gives them the best control of the vehicle while driving.
Just be sure that if you do decide to kick off your thongs when you’re behind the wheel, that they don’t stay in the footwell near the pedals, or in the immediate vicinity of your feet. Thongs have been known to slip under the brake pedal and limit the amount of control of the driver to brake for hazards, in some circumstances.
The best option for anyone driving a car is to wear footwear that won’t hinder your ability to control the car or limit your driving in any way. In that case, it’s best not to wear thongs, high heels or any other footwear that might be considered a driving hazard.
Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant roads authority in your state or territory.