Voices: The devil wears flip-flops

Voices: The devil wears flip-flops

By Carol Mizrahi

Flip-flops can be lethal.

Yes, that's what I said. Lethal! They can kill.

I know because they almost killed my son. He was riding his bike and approached an intersection that was clearly marked: STOP! BIKERS AND WALKERS HAVE THE RIGHT OF WAY.

A woman driving an SUV slowed to a stop. My son started across the road when, suddenly, the driver accelerated and hit him broadside. He first landed on the hood of her car, bounced off and fell into the street. If she hadn't found the brake when she did.

How did this happen? She was wearing flip-flops, and her foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator.

More and more accidents and near-accidents are being linked to uncontrolled acceleration or brake obstruction caused when flip-flops slide off a driver's foot and get stuck between or under floor pedals. To cite only a few cases:

— A woman in upstate New York recently lost control of her car and hit three pedestrians who were standing on a sidewalk. All three pedestrians died. According to police, the driver's flip-flops got tangled in the floor pedals.

— In 2010, a bicyclist was killed in Florida by a pickup truck after the driver's flip-flops got trapped between pedals.

— In 2012, a truck driver's flip-flops got stuck under the accelerator pedal of his car. He crashed through a store front and into the store. Fortunately, no one was killed.

— Last year, a bicyclist in Pittsburgh was struck and killed when a driver's flip-flops got tangled between floor pedals.

On and on it goes. Where it stops? Nobody knows.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that crashes due to pedal misapplication happen about 15 times a month. That's 180 times a year. Although the U.S. has done little research on accidents and near-accidents caused by flip-flops, England has.

Sheila's Wheels, a British insurance company, did a recent survey of over 1,000 drivers and found that 60 percent wear flip-flops when driving, and of that 60 percent, one-third blame them for causing an accident or near-accident. From this data, the company figured that flip-flops were responsible for 1.2 million accidents or close calls a year.

What makes flip-flops the devil's driving shoe?

They get stuck under and between control pedals, leading to over-acceleration or slow brake application.

Thin, soft soles brake 0.13 second slower than closed shoes. At 60 mph, 0.13 seconds equals 11 feet — possibly the difference between life and death.

It takes twice as much time to move between the gas and brake pedals when wearing flip flops than it does when wearing closed shoes.

Flip-flops cause more than car accidents.

Of the estimated 11,000 people who were hurt riding escalators in the U.S. in 2012, approximately 10 percent were the result of hands and feet becoming trapped in moving stairs.

A woman lost a toe when her flip flop had an argument with an escalator, and the escalator won.

Metro systems now warn riders about the potential danger of wearing flip-flops (as well as Crocs and high heels) on escalators, especially on hot summer days when rubber and other soft materials are more likely to sink into escalator steps.

And if all that doesn't convince you to flip your flops into the nearest garbage can, consider these findings from the American Podiatric Medical Association.

Because flip-flops offer no arch support, provide no heel cushioning or shock absorption, they can — if worn for prolonged periods — cause tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures and micro-tears. And those running or jumping while wearing flip-flops should be prepared for sprained ankles, ligament injuries and fractures, often requiring surgery.

Flip-flops can also be a breeding place for Staphylococcus aureus, a deadly germ that can invade your body and kill.

Unfortunately, there are no laws prohibiting driving in flip-flops, possibly because it would be impossible to enforce.

Think about it. Although it's illegal to text or talk into a cellphone held to your face while driving in Illinois (and many other states), I pass a dozen or more people on the road every day, doing just that. And you can see their hands and faces through the car windows. But how would you monitor what's on a driver's feet?

At the very least, the government should mandate that manufacturers of flip-flops (and other shoes of their ilk) stamp each shoe with a warning, such as: "This shoe can kill you — and others."

THE BOTTOM WHINE: If the shoe fits securely, wear it. If it doesn't, don't!

Carol Mizrahi is the author of the blog "The Bottom Whine" (thebottomwhine.blogspot.com) and "Coming of Age ... AGAIN," a novel. She lives in Champaign.

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