Let's Debunk Three Myths About Seemingly Illegal Things You Can Do While Driving

As a motor-carriage operator, there’s a lot of laws that must be acknowledged and respected: no open flames in the car, try to keep any raptors or other birds of prey secured while driving, take down your big cardboard sunshade before driving, that sort of thing. While I’m not certain any of those example laws are actually real, I do know of three driving situations that are usually assumed to be illegal actually are not. Like it or not, I’m going to tell you about them, so prepare accordingly.

Driving Barefoot

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Have you ever driven barefoot? I won’t lie to you, I’ve done it, and I’m not ashamed to say I kind of liked it. The ridged rubber of the pedal covers feels kind of satisfying, and I think you can get much more precise throttle control with your non-shoe encumbered feet.

Almost every time driving barefoot comes up, though, some podiatric prude likes to mention that driving while barefoot is illegal. You know what, though? It’s not.

No state actually has any laws making barefoot driving illegal, so don’t take any guff from people trying to tell you it’s against the law. Your feet are not criminals—they’re just the hands of your legs, and if they want to serve you foot-glove-less, you can legally let them.

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Driving With The Interior Dome Light On

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This is another one of those things that I’ve been told is illegal since I started driving, though, admittedly, as far as crimes go, it’s closer to loitering than, say, murder.

But is it actually illegal to drive with your interior dome light on? Sure, having the interior light on inside the car can impair your vision out of the car at night, but there are no actual laws on the books that say it’s illegal.

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It may be possible to be pulled over for something like distracted driving, and the illuminated interior light may be cited as part of the reason why, but as far as the interior light itself being on, no, that’s not illegal unto itself. So have at it. Unless you’re having trouble seeing from the interior glare, in which case, don’t be stupid.

Rear Side Windows Can Legally Only Roll Down Part Way

When I was a kid growing up in the ‘80s, I remember encountering a lot of cars where the rear side windows that only rolled down part-way, often just halfway down. This was most egregious on cars like the Volkswagen Rabbit Convertible, which could drop its entire roof but somehow not the upper 50 percent of its rear side windows:

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I was always told that this was the case because of some sort of law designed to prevent kids in back seats from launching themselves out of car windows, which I suppose was something of an epidemic in the ‘60s and ‘70s? At least that’s how it was always presented to me.

The truth is, though, that there was no such law. The reason this was so often the case—and it was very common, with some cars, like four-door Chrysler K-Cars, not even allowing the rear door windows to roll down at all—was more because of lazy engineering than any law.

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See, rear doors on smaller cars often cut into the rear wheel arches, which means there just isn’t room for a whole window to drop down into.

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Modern cars have come up with some solutions for this, such as reducing the size of the roll-down area of the window and having a separate fixed portion, or designing clever angled-roll-down methods (the old Beetle convertibles, for example, angled the rear side windows down instead of dropping them straight down) and as a result, modern cars rarely make rear-seat passengers suffer with windows that only frustratingly partially slide into the door.

And that’s completely legal.

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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)