Is It Illegal To Drive Barefoot in South Dakota? Here’s What the Law Says in 2024

Ever been told by a parent or grandparent to put on shoes before getting behind the wheel? You’re not alone. The idea that driving barefoot is illegal is a surprisingly common misconception, and South Dakota is no exception. Hitting the open road with the wind in your hair and toes wiggling free might sound idyllic, but is it breaking the law in the Mount Rushmore State?

This blog post dives deep into the legality (or lack thereof) of barefoot driving in South Dakota. We’ll explore the national landscape of barefoot driving laws, debunk the myth, and discuss the safety implications of this practice. Buckle up (or maybe unbuckle those sandals?), and let’s get rolling!

Debunking the Myth: Barefoot Driving and the Law in the US

A Brief History of the Barefoot Driving Misconception

The idea that driving barefoot is illegal seems ingrained in American driving culture. There’s no single source for this misconception, but it likely stems from a combination of factors. Perhaps it’s a cautionary tale passed down through generations, or maybe it’s simply a common-sense assumption that having proper footwear is essential for safe driving.

Where Does the Myth Come From?

The lack of specific laws against barefoot driving might contribute to the confusion. Unlike texting and driving, which has clear regulations nationwide, there are no federal laws prohibiting driving without shoes. This silence on the federal level might lead some to believe that it’s inherently illegal.

The Legal Landscape: Barefoot Driving Across All 50 States

Intrigued by the prevalence of this myth, a man named Jason Heimbaugh decided to settle the matter once and for all. Back in the 1990s, he contacted the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices in all 50 states. The answer? In every single state, including South Dakota, driving barefoot is legal.

South Dakota Specifics: No Laws Against Barefoot Driving

Now that we’ve debunked the myth, let’s get specific about South Dakota. There are currently no laws in South Dakota that prohibit driving without shoes. So, if you’re cruising down I-90 barefoot and get pulled over for a broken taillight, you won’t face an additional charge for your foot fashion choice.

But is it Safe?

While legal, safety experts strongly advise against driving barefoot. Here’s why:

  • Reduced Feel: Barefoot driving can decrease your feel for the pedals, making it harder to modulate pressure and control the vehicle precisely. This is especially true when transitioning between the brake and gas pedal.
  • Slipping Hazard: Slick soles or wet conditions can cause your foot to slip off the pedal, potentially leading to an accident.
  • Obstructed Movement: Loose objects like pebbles or flip-flops can get lodged under your foot, hindering your ability to brake or accelerate effectively.
  • Emergency Maneuvers: In an unexpected situation, the lack of proper footwear can make it difficult to maneuver the car safely. Imagine needing to slam on the brakes or quickly switch pedals to avoid an obstacle while barefoot.

Recommendations for Safe Driving in South Dakota

South Dakota boasts some stunning landscapes, from the Badlands National Park to the Black Hills. Here are some tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable driving experience, footwear included:

  • Wear Shoes: Opt for shoes with good grip and support. Proper footwear provides better control and reduces the risk of slipping.
  • Be Weather-Ready: Adjust your footwear based on the weather conditions. Avoid sandals or flip-flops when it’s raining or snowing.
  • Maintain Your Vehicle: Regularly check your brakes, pedals, and floor mats to ensure they’re in good condition and free of obstructions.
  • Focus on the Road: Minimize distractions and stay alert while driving.

Additional Considerations and Interesting Tidbits

Beyond the safety concerns and legal aspects, here are some additional points to consider when it comes to barefoot driving in South Dakota:

  • Insurance Implications: While unlikely, some insurance companies might use barefoot driving as a contributing factor in denying a claim if you’re involved in an accident. It’s always best to check your insurance policy for any specific exclusions.
  • Local Ordinances: Even though there are no statewide laws against barefoot driving, some South Dakota cities or towns might have local ordinances in place. It’s always a good idea to check with your local municipality to be on the safe side.
  • Common Sense and Courtesy: While legal, driving barefoot can be seen as reckless or irresponsible behavior by other drivers. It’s important to be courteous to fellow road users and avoid actions that could raise concerns about your ability to control the vehicle safely.

Learning From Other States:

While South Dakota follows the national trend of not having laws against barefoot driving, some states have taken interesting approaches to this topic:

  • Recommendations vs. Regulations: Several states, like Maryland and South Carolina, don’t have laws against barefoot driving, but their official driver’s manuals strongly recommend wearing shoes while operating a vehicle.
  • The Case for Flip-flops: Incredibly, one state, Hawaii, specifically mentions that flip-flops are not recommended for driving, although it doesn’t explicitly ban them.

The Future of Barefoot Driving Laws:

It’s unlikely that South Dakota, or any other state for that matter, will introduce laws specifically prohibiting barefoot driving in the near future. However, the ongoing conversation about distracted driving and in-vehicle safety might lead to a broader discussion about footwear and its role in safe operation of a motor vehicle.

Road Trip Essentials: Beyond Shoes

So, you’re planning a road trip through the scenic byways of South Dakota? Here’s a quick checklist to ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey, besides packing your favorite pair of comfortable shoes:

  • Sunscreen and Sunglasses: South Dakota sunshine can be intense, so pack plenty of sunscreen and polarized sunglasses for optimal visibility.
  • Snacks and Drinks: Stay hydrated and energized with plenty of water and road-trip friendly snacks.
  • Entertainment: Audiobooks, podcasts, or a good playlist can keep you company on long stretches of road.
  • Emergency Kit: Be prepared for unexpected situations with a basic emergency kit that includes a first-aid kit, jumper cables, and a flashlight.
  • Destination Research: Plan your route and research your stops beforehand. Knowing what to expect can make your trip more efficient and enjoyable.


Remember, even though it’s legal, driving barefoot in South Dakota is simply not the best idea. For the sake of your safety and the safety of others on the road, make wearing proper shoes a habit whenever you get behind the wheel. By following these tips and recommendations, you can ensure a safe and memorable driving experience in South Dakota, allowing you to focus on the breathtaking scenery and create lasting memories on your South Dakota adventure.

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MBS Staff
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