Could you be fined for driving in flip flops?

30 June 2023
What was claimed

Driving in flip flops could land you a £1,000 fine and three points on your licence, or £5,000 and nine points.

Our verdict

Driving in flip flops is not an offence in itself. But it could contribute to other offences, such as “driving without care and attention”, which has a maximum fine of £5,000 and nine points. It could also contribute to the offence of “not being in proper control” of the vehicle, which has a maximum fine of £1,000 and three points.

As hot weather has swept the UK, Full Fact has seen several different claims about the potential fines that drivers could receive if they drive a car while wearing flip flops.

Several publications including Compare the Market, Warrington Guardian and the West Yorkshire local news website Telegraph and Argus have reported that driving in flip flops could land you with a fine of £1,000 and three points on your licence. Other outlets such as The Sun, Daily Express and OK Magazine have reported that the fine could be £5,000 with nine points on your licence.

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What could be the cost of driving in flip flops?

Driving in flip flops is not illegal (which all the articles make clear) but it could prevent you from driving safely and subsequently result in a penalty. 

The motoring offences that may occur as a result of driving in flip flops include “driving without due care and attention” and “not being in proper control” of the vehicle.

For both offences, police can issue a fixed penalty notice on the spot, which amounts to a fine of £100 and three points on the driver’s licence that will stay on your record for four years. The case may go to court if the driver refuses the fine or if, in more serious cases, police summonsed the driver to court. 

Scenarios where someone would be issued an on-the-spot penalty for “driving without due care and attention” include tailgating or poor lane discipline. Other examples of the offence that may result in a penalty include overtaking on the inside, unnecessarily slow driving or braking, running a red light or dazzling other drivers with undipped headlights. 

The maximum fine for careless driving is £5,000, as well as possible driving disqualification and between three and nine points on your licence. In the most serious scenario, causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving is a separate offence and has a maximum prison sentence of five years. 

As Full Fact has written before, if your case goes to court and you are sentenced, one of the factors that determines the extent of any fine, points and driving ban is how culpable you were in the offence.

For not being in “proper control” of the vehicle, the maximum penalty is £1,000 and three points on your licence. There is no legal definition of what “not being in proper control” of a vehicle means but other examples include eating and drinking at the wheel, map reading, and using a mobile phone for music or satellite navigation.

Adam Antoszkiw, solicitor advocate at law firm Gray and Co, told Full Fact that the penalty for not being in proper control is always three points on the licence, whereas there’s much more of a “sliding scale” when it comes to penalties for careless driving. 

He said: "To wear flip flops in itself isn't an offence but it's probably not a clever idea. If there's an accident of any sort, it would be much easier to suggest that you are culpable because your flip flop got stuck underneath the pedal, for example, which then led to offences like driving without due care and attention or not having control of the vehicle.

"These are entry level offences but if something more serious were to happen, you potentially wouldn't be able to say you'd done everything you could to prevent it. You wouldn't necessarily be charged but the gateway for the standard of driving to fall below that of a reasonable and competent driver has opened.

“The prosecution may be more easily led to prove you are culpable in the knowledge that you were wearing flip flops."

What does the Highway Code say?

While the Highway Code is non-legally binding, Rule 97 advises that “Before setting off. You should ensure that…clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner.”

The RAC explains how failure to comply with the Highway Code rules can’t directly cause you to be fined, prosecuted or disqualified, “but the advice it offers can be used as evidence in any court to establish liability”.

Full Fact has previously written fact checks on other law-related claims, such as whether it is illegal to park on pavements in Wales or what the legal age for parental consent is in England and Wales. You can also read more about how the UK’s legal system works here.

Image courtesy of Adrian Michael

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