OPINION | Why driving in high heels is dangerous - and even illegal in some countries

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Foot on the brake in traffic on the way to work by car. Driving in heels is dangerous for road safety.
Foot on the brake in traffic on the way to work by car. Driving in heels is dangerous for road safety.

Many women find nothing wrong with driving in high heels, and it's almost second nature. Barend Smit explains why it's so dangerous, that it's even banned in some countries. So if you were ever in doubt, a pair of flats or pumps are much better for road safety.

High heels are questionable for your health most of the time, but wearing high heels is particularly dangerous for driving. Whether you're wearing stilettos, platforms, or wedges, high heels are one of the worst footwear choices when behind the wheel.  

South Africa doesn't have any laws regarding footwear – or the lack of footwear – for driving. However, in some European countries, some rules pertain to specific footwear. In Spain, it's illegal to drive with flip flops or high heels; in Germany, it's illegal to drive with flip flops.

When choosing footwear for driving, consider whether or not your choice of shoe allows you to have complete control of your vehicle. If a child was to run out into the road suddenly, would you be able to react fast enough and stop just as quickly?"

Because of foot positioning, high heels reduce the amount of control you have in an emergency, making it challenging to slam on brakes. To have good control of the pedals, the heel of your foot should rest on the floor of the vehicle.

If you're wearing a long, thin heel, you're effectively balancing on the heel of the shoe, and the heel of your foot is elevated. This is a very small, unstable point of contact with the car's floor, and it can easily slip out of place if you apply the brakes sharply. Your heel could also get caught in the floor mat or slip under the pedals.  

Closeup image of female driver changing shoes afte
Closeup image of a female driver changing shoes after driving a car in more suited footwear.

Many high heels also have pointy, narrow toes with a slippery sole, making applying pressure on the pedal even more difficult.

Platforms and wedges are also problematic because the thicker sole means your foot is further away from the peddle. You risk pressing two pedals simultaneously or not applying the right amount of pressure.  Shoes with thin soles and a good grip are best for driving because they won't slip off the pedals, and you have a better connection between your foot and the car.  

If you're a big fan of high heels, keep a pair of sensible flats in your car for driving and change into your heels when you reach your destination. Don't be tempted to drive barefoot because that's just as dangerous as driving with heels. Put road safety before fashion, and give yourself the best chance by adequately preparing for anything that might happen on the roads.

Barend Smit is the Marketing Director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options.

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