With the range of new technologies built into newer vehicles, driving is becoming safer than ever, but sometimes collisions occur because of a lack of driving preparedness - specifically our choice of footwear. Crash avoidance and bringing the vehicle to a sudden stop requires not only effective brakes, but also the ability to react swiftly and apply adequate pressure to the brake pedal.
The humble flip flop is proving an unexpected talking point, after a report that wearing them has adverse effects on road safety
Summer weather in Ireland often generates the desire to wear less restricting and more breathable footwear. That new pair of shoes you bought for the beach might look great, but you may want to rethink driving in them. Even a simple task like changing gears could cause a serious problem in the wrong type of shoes.
From high heels and flip-flops to platforms and boots, there are many footwear choices that can potentially contribute to the loss of control of your vehicle. A survey by an insurance company in the United Kingdom revealed that flip-flops are the most dangerous type of shoe to drive in. Three-quarters of the one thousand motorists questioned said they found it challenging to drive in flip-flops, however 25 per cent admitted to regularly driving in them. Under half of women drivers surveyed said they chose what shoes to wear based on what went best with their outfit rather than what was the safest footwear for driving in.
Mr Gerard Butler ADI (Driving Instructor ) said that the RSA request test applicants must wear suitable footwear during the practical driving test. (Flip flops/beach sandals or other backless type footwear or barefoot driving is not acceptable). I have had occasion where I had to refuse driving instruction to student because they were not wearing suitable footware.
An other report again from the UK revealed that 80 per cent of female drivers wear inappropriate footwear when in control of a car; a third of all female drivers confess to wearing flip-flops; and 18 per cent claim that they have worn no shoes at all when driving.
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.
And the force applied to the brake was 10.05 sq m per second in slip-ons, compared with a figure of 10.20 for wedges.
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 Ireland, 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.
Noel Gibbons Road safety officer said "If a driver decides to keep a pair of suitable driving shoes in the car they should consider where their unsuitable shoes are stowed during the journey, stuffing them under the seat is not advisable as during an emergency they could shoot forward and wedge under the brake pedal. You must give due consideration to the safe stowage for all items inside the vehicle."