9 Clothing Items You Shouldn't Wear When Driving
Avoid an accident by dressing smart with these tips from road safety experts.
Taking precautions behind the wheel is one of the best things you can do regarding your safety. That's because, in recent years, there have been upward of 42,000 vehicular deaths in the U.S. annually—not to mention over 1.5 million road-related injuries and many more crashes resulting in car or property damage.
Of course, there are basic safety rules that should go without saying: Never drive under the influence, always wear your seatbelt, don't check your phone, and give your fellow drivers adequate space to maneuver and make mistakes. However, there's also another way to stay safe that few people consider before getting into their cars: dressing for the ride.
Experts say there are nine clothing items and accessories you should avoid if you plan to get behind the wheel. Read on to find out which clothes are considered dangerous, according to road safety experts.
The experts all agree that one of the most dangerous clothing items people wear while driving is loose-fitting sandals or flip-flops.
"Flip-flops lack proper grip and can easily slip off the pedals, compromising control over the vehicle," explains Lucas Waldenback, co-founder of Zutobi Drivers Ed.
"In addition, flip-flops may not provide enough support for you to hit the brakes quickly enough to stop your car," note experts from Suffolk Foot & Ankle.
This type of scenario is known as "pedal error," where your foot either slips off the brake or accelerator pedal, or you push the wrong pedal entirely. Both of these slip-ups can easily cause a crash. Geico reports that a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that about 16,000 crashes every year are due to pedal error.
High heels pose a similar danger and add risk by balancing your foot's weight precariously on a high, narrow point.
"High heels can impede the ability to apply consistent pressure on the pedals, making it harder to brake or accelerate smoothly," explains Waldenback. Instead of driving in heels, opt for sneakers and put on your dress shoes upon arrival.
Too many layers or bulky coats
Waldenback says that wearing too many layers of clothing or bulky coats or sweatshirts "can restrict movement and hinder quick reactions in emergencies."
"They can also create too much space between you and the seatbelt, reducing its effectiveness," adds John Lin, the owner of JB Motor Works, a car repair shop in Philadelphia, PA.
Beyond being bulky, hoodies can be a source of additional danger due to their loose drawstrings, which "can become entangled with the steering wheel or gear shifter, leading to distractions and accidents," explains Waldenback.
Additionally, wearing your hood can block your peripheral vision, posing a serious risk to your safety while merging or turning.
Overly tight or restrictive clothing can also put you in harm's way while driving, as it "can limit your range of motion, reducing your ability to turn, check blind spots, or make necessary maneuvers," says Waldenback.
"Skinny jeans or tight skirts might limit leg movement, making it difficult to transition quickly from gas to brake," agrees Lin.
Hats and scarves
Waldenback also warns against wearing oversized accessories, "like chunky jewelry or wide-brimmed hats, "which he says can cause distraction and "obstruct your view and create blind spots."
Stanley Hawkin, an automotive safety expert with Vehicle Chef, calls out one accessory in particular: "Long scarves can easily get caught in the steering wheel, gear shift, or other controls, causing sudden and unexpected movements. This poses a significant safety risk."
While not oversized, headphones are another accessory that could cause an accident on the road since they eliminate your ability to hear car horns and other auditory warning signs.
"Whilst visual cues—keeping your eyes on the road—are of primary importance, there are plenty of audio cues that we should take note of while we're driving," Robert Muñoz, a driving expert and founder of SensibleMotive, tells Best Life. "Whether it's a distant police siren that signals a glance in the mirror or the rumble of an 18-wheeler in your blind spot, staying alert to every sense will keep you safe while driving."
Sunglasses during low-light hours
On an especially bright day, sunglasses can help you see the road without a dangerous glare. However, they can go from helpful to downright dangerous as the sun begins to set.
"Sounds obvious, but I've seen it," says Lin. "Sunglasses should only be used to protect against glare in bright conditions. Using them in low light can reduce visibility."
Shoes with thick soles
Even sneakers or boots can be dangerous while driving if they have particularly thick soles, says Lin.
"Similar to high heels, thick-soled boots or sneakers can create a buffer between you and the pedals, diminishing the tactile feedback that helps you gauge how much pressure to apply," he explains. "We've seen a lot of automobile issues and accidents, and believe that preventive advice like this can make a big difference."
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