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Driving Law Myths: Fact or Fiction

by John Gomez | Last Updated: April 29, 2016

In the state with America’s longest coastline, beautiful beaches, and great surfing, it’s no surprise that driving while barefoot in California is legal. There’s a myth that driving or riding a motorcycle without shoes in California is against the law, when in fact law enforcement has no problems with it – although it’s not recommended for motorcyclists.

Driving barefoot in California isn’t the only subject confusing drivers. There are other driving laws specific to California similarly clouded with misinformation, and they can be bewildering – especially to tourists. It’s time to clear up the facts surrounding driving laws in the Golden State and drive with confidence.

Is it Illegal to Drive Barefoot in California?

As already mentioned, despite the myth, you can go shoeless behind the wheel in California. State officials are much more concerned with how you drive, not with what you’re wearing. As long as you can keep control of your vehicle while barefoot, you can wear or not wear whatever you want on your feet.

It’s common for people who habitually wear flip-flops to slip them off while driving, which can actually be safer than driving with them on – flip-flops can easily get caught on the pedals and prevent use of the brakes.

Is Wearing Headphones While Driving Legal?

As of January 2016, earplugs, headsets, headphones, or other ear coverings worn in both ears are illegal for drivers and cyclists in California. It’s been illegal to wear over-the-ear headphones for years, but until this year that law did not cover the use of earbuds. Now you must leave one ear open if you want to use these devices or else risk a fine.

Drivers and cyclists cannot effectively listen to their surroundings for honking, environment changes, or shouts if both ears are covered. For cyclists, this is especially dangerous, because they need to hear oncoming traffic or honking. Music or conversation may make a drive or bike ride more enjoyable, but be sure to keep one ear open to avoid an accident.

Laws Regarding GPS

GPS rules are stringent in California, and many drivers still don’t understand the exact stipulations surrounding GPS laws. You can attach a GPS unit to your windshield, but only in the lower corners of the driver or passenger side, and nowhere in the middle.

Placing your GPS in the center of your windshield inhibits your view of the road and can lead to accidents, especially if a pedestrian or cyclist crosses the road in front of you. If you attach your GPS to the center of your windshield, you’ll be fined for breaking the law.

Headlights in the Rain?

Unlike other states, California does not make the use of headlights in rain mandatory. You can use your windshield wipers and still not turn on your headlights, at least until the rain, mist, snow, fog, or other precipitation becomes strong enough to use your windshield wipers continually.

Listening to the Radio

California law prohibits the use of radio if it can be heard 50 or more feet away from the vehicle. Created as a common courtesy law for the benefit of other drivers who are forced to listen to the music, police do not always enforce it, as it’s difficult to prove the distance at which the officer heard the music.





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