Women Driving: to Heel or not to Heel

By: Iver Penn

How many times has your wife, mother, or sister worried more about her heels while driving than the car's parts, the , for instance?

Well now it looks like someone has finally come up with a solution to their worries.

A new footwear design concept that aims to "make women safer and more comfortable behind the wheel, without compromising on their style" has been recently launched by Sheilas' Wheels this week. Sheila's Wheels, an insurance brand for women, has developed the 'Sheila Driving Heel' which gives women the best of both worlds - a safe, flat driving shoe and a glamorous pair of heels in one - all interchangeable at a push of a button.

According to new research from Sheilas' Wheels, 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. Around a sixth (15%) of female motorists in Yorkshire 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 while driving.

The report highlighted that 75% of women in Yorkshire called for better guidelines to advise them on the correct form of footwear to wear when driving. A lack of understanding is clearly evident as almost three fifths (58%) of female motorists in Yorkshire 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.

According to the company's 'Safe Shoes' report a massive 78% of female drivers in Yorkshire wear inappropriate footwear when in control of a car - choosing style over safety. Two fifths (39%) of all female drivers in the area also confess to wearing flip-flops, while 19% 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.

Apparently safety goes second to style to some of those surveyed as over a third (34%) of women drivers in Yorkshire 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.

Only around one in six (14%) female drivers in Yorkshire keep a spare pair of 'driving shoes' in the car to change into, while 19% 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.

"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," Jacky Brown, spokesperson for Sheilas' Wheels said, "Our Sheila Driving Heel design could provide safety-conscious female motorists with the ultimate driving shoe - allowing women to wear a safe flat shoe whilst driving, and a fashionable heel once they are out of the car."

The Safe Shoes report also reveals that although two thirds of women (66%) wear heels when behind the wheel, they cited a number of disadvantages - all of which are eliminated by the 'Sheila Driving Heel' design:

- It damages or scuffs the back of the heel (52%) - with the 'Sheila Driving Heel' design, the heel tucks up into the shoe and out of harms way
- Heels can sometimes get caught under the pedal when driving (49%)
- the flat shoe option removes this potentially dangerous problem
- Wearing heels causes an uncomfortable driving position (43%) - the flat shoe option lessens pressure on the knee and lower back, improving comfort behind the wheel
- Heels don't provide enough grip (31%) - the 'Sheila Driving Heel' shoe has a discrete yet effective tread on the sole, to aid grip on the pedals
- It wears out the driving mat (17%) - the 'Sheila Driving Heel' shoe has a curved back to aid pivoting of the ankle and remove the possibility of damage

About Sheilas' Wheels
Sheilas' Wheels was launched in October 2005 to offer women drivers cheaper car insurance and product enhancements including GBP300 handbag cover - for bags stolen from the car (comprehensive cover only) - competitive breakdown recovery rates, a dedicated counseling line run by trained professionals to help customers cope with driving issues such as road rage (comprehensive cover only), and a network of female-friendly repairers.

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