Dressed to impress might work on that first date or for that job interview but behind the wheel of your car, function always trumps form. That means being dressed comfortably but more importantly, safely, by paying attention to the clothes and shoes you drive in.
If you’re still scratching your head as to the importance of proper dressing while operating a vehicle, just look back at the dress code strictly enforced during your driving course and the subsequent driving examination you underwent before receiving your “P” license.
The Road Transport Department (JPJ) isn’t out to make life difficult for you. The dress code it enforces during the theoretical and practical segments of the driving test does reflect safe driving practices while behind the wheel.
How Your Footwear Affects Your Driving
As an easy example of how your clothes affect your driving, let’s look at the shoes you drive in, specifically the prohibition of slippers or sandals when you take your theory or practical test during the driving course.
Simply put, it’s a lot safer to be operating the pedals with shoes because the correct position of your feet on the pedal should be with the heel resting on the floor and the ball of your feet modulating pressure on the pedal with your ankle functioning as the pivot.
In the case of slippers or sandals, open footwear such as those are able to move around independently of your feet and could get stuck under the pedal or provide insufficient feedback to your feet.
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The same goes for high heels. Driving whilst wearing high heels are dangerous and could lead to a crash. If you’re wearing high heels, your foot’s heel will be elevated from the floor and you won’t be able to properly judge the amount of pressure to apply on the pedal.
Therefore, ladies, it’s highly recommended that you keep a simple pair of slip-on shoes in the car for driving if you’re sporting some high heels for a night out.
Is Driving Without Shoes Illegal?
So, does that mean driving with slippers/sandals or driving without shoes is illegal? Well, yes and no. There’s no real short answer here so let’s delve into the details.
If you’re operating a private vehicle, you can’t be fined for driving with slippers/sandals or barefooted. However, drivers of commercial vehicles as well as e-hailing drivers are not only required to wear covered shoes but long pants as well.
The latter can be fined if they are caught operating commercial vehicles (taxi, bus, lorry, van) or doing e-hailing duties in slippers/sandals or if wearing shorts. Drivers of these vehicles fall under the Goods Driving Licence (GDL) or Public Service Vehicles (PSV) license categories.
It can be quite a hefty fine as well at RM150 if caught without the proper attire.
Just in case you’re curious, the law regarding covered shoes for PSV drivers falls under the Public Service Vehicles (Licensing and Conduct of Drivers, Conductors, and Passengers) Rule 1959.
So What Are the Best Shoes for a Safer Drive?
This brings us to the fundamental question of “Is driving barefooted dangerous?”
Circling back to the point of “feeling” the pedal to gauge the appropriate pressure, it’s logical that barefooted would be the best method as there’s no extra layer underneath your sole to desensitize the feedback.
Nonetheless, from a broader perspective, the cons outweigh the pros. Tactile feel apart, there isn’t really anything else going for barefooted driving.
In fact, the reason JPJ recommends not driving barefooted is in the event of an emergency, you’ll want as much protection around your feet in case the footwell caves in or if you need to make a quick exit right after an accident. In the case of the latter, you wouldn’t want to jump out on the road with debris and probably shards of glass barefooted, would you?
If you have shoes on while driving, your feet will be protected if the footwell caves in or if you need to hop out. After all, nobody will have time to flail about looking for their shoes or putting them on in the event of an accident.
Furthermore, wet pedals or perspiration from your feet could cause your soles to slip off the pedal or apply sudden jolts of pressure. This could certainly lead to a crash.
However, it’s pertinent to point out that not all shoes are suitable for driving as well. Shoes with thick or stiff soles would make it difficult to modulate the pedal or receive tactile feedback.
The best shoes to drive in shouldn’t have a sole that’s too thick or too thin, have enough grip from the sole and be flexible enough for ample modulation.
Too thick of a sole and you’ll lose that tactile feel, too thin and it might hurt if you have to apply maximum braking force in an emergency. If there’s no grip from the sole, your leg could slip off the pedal, much like driving with slippers/sandals or barefooted. If the sole is too stiff, it’ll be difficult to pivot your foot from the ankle to modulate the pedal.
Other Clothes That Help Promote Safe Driving
Although it might seem trivial from a surface level, there’s a reason behind the encouragement of proper attire while driving by JPJ.
From the footwear, the very same logic can be applied to wearing long pants. It adds a slight layer of protection from scratches in the event of a crash to your calves.
Moving further up the torso, a collared T-shirt would also prevent the seatbelt from causing abrasions on your neck during a hard impact.
Essentially, you’ll want to be well-covered but also comfortable behind the wheel. The reasoning behind the latter is to prevent restrictive clothing from slowing down the movement of your arms or legs if the need for sudden corrective inputs is required.
Similarly, tight jeans without any stretch would hamper movement of the legs. Pants with some stretch in them would be easier to move about, especially if you need to jump out of the car quickly post-impact.
Having said that, a layer of clothing over your legs or arms would be helpful in preventing abrasions, though something like a stiff leather jacket isn’t what we have in mind. It hinders movement of the elbows when executing full turns of the steering wheel. Therefore, something lighter with more freedom of movement is always going to be safer.
Peripheral awareness is another important factor to consider. The area of a blind spot on your side can be reduced with a quick glance to said side before changing lanes or making a turn. Furthermore, while driving in general, it’s absolutely imperative that you be aware of the vehicles or space on your sides. A quick glance would make you aware of what’s there and what isn’t.
Sticking with that, thick scarfs would restrict your neck’s movement in making a quick glance. It almost feels like a neck brace to a certain extent. If you need to wear one, opt for a thin, light scarf that doesn’t constrict neck movement. Additionally, it goes a long way in keeping the skin on your neck safe if a crash happens and the seatbelt holds you back.
All these laws are implemented not only for your safety but for that of other road users as well. It’s definitely not because JPJ wants to make your life difficult.
Therefore, remember that when you’re behind the wheel, it’s better to dress for comfort and safety than fashion and form.
At CARSOME, we put all our cars through a stringent 175-point inspection and professional refurbishment to ensure their safety and comfort.