June 20, 2007 From side air bags to anti-lock braking systems and traction control, technology has delivered a raft of safety enhancing features for motor vehicles, but sometimes accidents occur because of much simpler deficiencies in our driving preparedness – namely our choice of shoes. This issue is especially relevant to women’s shoes where the latest fashion may not be the ideal choice when it comes to controlling a motor vehicle. The solution offered by UK based car insurance company Sheilas’ Wheels is to combine two types of shoe into one – a safe, flat driving shoe that transforms into a stylish pair of heels at the a push of a button.
Though not the first time we have encountered the concept of a convertible high heel, the Sheila Driving Heel’ is designed specifically to give women a safe flat when in transit and a fashionable heel at the end of the journey. The design seeks to eliminate several deficiencies caused by driving in heels including their lack of grip, tendency to get caught under the pedal and the uncomfortable driving position that results from wearing them. The flat shoe option lessens pressure on the knee and lower back to improve comfort behind the wheel and a discrete tread on the sole aids grip on the pedals.
Surveys have shown that 10% of female motorists admit that they have had a car accident or a ‘near-miss’ because of their shoes slipping off or getting stuck between, or under, the foot pedals whilst driving. This means that more than 11.5 million women drivers in the UK are putting themselves and other drivers at risk by wearing the wrong footwear when behind the wheel.
The ‘Safe Shoes’ report commissioned by Sheilas’ Wheels found that 80% of female drivers wear inappropriate footwear when in control of a car. A third (33%) of all female drivers confess to wearing flip-flops, while 18% claim that they have worn no shoes at all when driving, which experts say can be extremely hazardous and is currently illegal in some parts of the UK and elsewhere around the globe. Under half of women drivers surveyed said they chose what shoes to wear when getting ready in the morning based on what went best with their outfit rather than being the safest for driving in.
So why not carry an extra pair of shoes? According to the research this solution simply isn’t practical - under a fifth of female drivers keep a spare pair of ‘driving shoes’ in the car to change into, while nearly a quarter admit they can’t be bothered to change their shoes when behind the wheel even if they know they are not the safest for driving.
A lack of understanding is also evident in terms of which shoes are best suited to driving. Over half (54%) of female motorists surveyed believed that sports trainers were the safest shoes to drive in - even though their thick soles and chunky design limit both movement between, and contact with, the pedals.
Jacky Brown, spokesperson for Sheilas’ Wheels, said: “It’s astonishing that so many women are putting themselves, their passengers and other drivers at risk by wearing the wrong shoe or no shoe at all whilst behind the wheel. Stilettos, sling-backs and strappy sandals aren’t the sensible choice when it comes to controlling a car.”
Dianne Ferreira, spokesperson for Brake the national road safety charity, added: “An alarming number of female drivers simply do not realise the danger they are putting themselves, and others, in by driving in inappropriate shoes. High heels, platforms and flip-flops can seriously hamper your ability to drive safely, and could have fatal consequences. It only takes a few seconds to change your shoes before each journey to help ensure you arrive safely.”
Female motorists can visit www.ilovesheilas.com to give their opinion on the ‘Sheila Driving Heel’.