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Will I be fined if I drive in flip-flops in France?

It is summer in France and along with advice on cooking the perfect barbeque and discussions about the quality of rosé French newspapers have returned to the topic of whether you can drive wearing flip-flops or not.

In the latest case a 76-year-old man was fined €35 after an accident when he allegedly cut off a motocyclist, causing him serious injuries.

Gendarmes called to the scene said the claquettes he was wearing (simple open sandals with one strap across) were inappropriate footware for driving a car.

"You can't drive barefoot, in claquettes or tongs (flip-flops). It's something you learn in driving school," one gendarme told regional newspaper Le Progrès. "You've got to have closed or attached shoes otherwise there's a risk of the foot slipping or that it won't grip the pedals sufficiently."

Opinions differ on flipflop driving laws

Specialist motoring magazines have often argued that there is no law banning you from driving wearing tongs or even driving in bare feet – as long as you do not leave your shoes in the footwell where they might get under the pedals.

Police and gendarmes though, sometimes fine people for wearing them under section R412-6 of the Code de la Route, which says: “All drivers have to be in a position to operate controls properly and without delay for any manoeuvres which might be required.”

The wording of the law leaves a lot of room for interpretation and some police officers argue that flip-flops, because they are loose fitting and are often significantly wider on the feet than other shoes, interfere with the use of pedals.

Another argument used against them is that they are too spongy to enable the driver to feel pedals correctly.

The same argument has been used to fine drivers who were wearing wood-soled clogs because the rigid nature of the wood meant the pedals could not be felt.

Drivers often win on appeal

Where people have appealed against fines, usually the driver wins, providing they can argue they had full control of the car.

For bare feet, the police argument is often that most people in France now hardly ever walk with bare feet and so have soft soles, meaning that pushing car pedals with bare feet is uncomfortable which can lead to a loss of control.

People who have appealed against the fine have said that their feet are hard enough not to cause problems.

In spite of the lack of clarity in the law, French motoring schools teach that driving in flip-flops or bare feet is banned.

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