Contrary to popular belief, driving barefoot is not illegal in Maryland. In fact, it’s not illegal in any of the 50 states. As long as you are driving your vehicle safely, there are no laws regarding what footwear is acceptable while driving a vehicle in the state of Maryland.
However, that does not mean that your decision to wear shoes behind the wheel will not have a legal impact on you in an accident situation.
Some argue that driving barefoot allows you to control the speed, agility, and braking on powerful cars more accurately.
However, driving barefoot is seen as inadvisable and even dangerous. Your bare feet might not have the braking force needed to stop your vehicle in time.
As if that weren’t enough, your bare feet might slip and slide off the gas or brake pedals or the clutch as you’re changing gears, potentially causing you to lose control of your car and crash.
Even if another driver causes the accident that injured you, your failure to wear shoes could be viewed by a court as a contributing factor in the accident. In Maryland, that means you may not be able to recover anything.
No matter what situation you find yourself in after a car accident, you can benefit from experienced, resourceful legal counsel.
The dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras offer free case reviews to potential clients about their options for injury recovery. To hear more about our services and how you can benefit, call us today at (410) 694-7291.
Is There a Law Against Barefoot Driving in Maryland?
You may have been in a store before with a sign reading, “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” There is no such rule that governs your ability to drive.
None of the 50 states, including Maryland, have any laws that require drivers to have footwear on while driving. This does not mean that a decision to drive barefoot comes without legal repercussions, however. Contact our Baltimore car accident attorneys to find out more.
Is it Negligent to Drive Barefoot?
In the event of a car accident, Maryland drivers must consider whether their decision to drive barefoot could be viewed as a contributing factor in their car accident.
This is critical. If you are deemed to be even 1% to blame for your car accident, you stand the chance of recovering absolutely nothing under your claims for compensation. Rules that require a claimant to be free of fault could come into play in the following situations:
The police could submit that your driving was careless or negligent if they determine that an accident was somehow the result of driving barefoot. In other words, the accident likely would not have occurred as it did if you were wearing reasonable footwear.
Insurance companies could claim that you are partially responsible for your accident due to your decision to drive barefoot.
Causing Your Own Injuries
If the soles of your feet are slashed or cut over the glass and debris scattered all around your wrecked vehicle, insurers could insist you were partially to blame for the extent of your own injuries by being barefoot. This could nullify your claim completely.
If your insurer doesn’t settle your claim, you could open yourself up to liability and a jury may be left to decide if your decision to drive barefoot was indeed negligent.
If both the police and your insurance company perceive that the accident was caused by your decision to drive barefoot, it can affect the outcome of any claims and have a negative effect on settlement negotiations.
Is it Challenging to Drive Barefoot?
In situations where emergency braking is required to avoid a car crash, driving barefoot could be a detriment. In addition to efficient brakes, a driver must be able to react instantly and apply immediate and sufficient pressure on a vehicle’s clutch or brake pedal.
Driving with your bare feet can affect the heavy and even pressure that is required to stop suddenly to avoid a car crash or other calamity.
Your bare feet may become slippery or sweaty after a long day at the beach, and the inability to firmly put pressure on the pedals is always hazardous.
Even if you don’t recognize these conditions prior to getting in the car, they may develop and present themselves at the worst possible moment.
If an accident does occur, there is invariably the risk of cutting or otherwise injuring your feet on shattered glass, car debris, or rubble in the roadway. If you have to get out of your car for any other reason, being barefoot can similarly cause unnecessary injury.
Automatic vs. Manual Transmission
Driving a car with an automatic transmission is a bit easier to handle because you’re dealing with only one pedal at a time. It’s more demanding when driving a manual transmission where both feet must often engage simultaneously.
With a manual transmission, driving barefoot can also be challenging when driving over long distances. the repeated friction of the clutch as you manually engage the car can become uncomfortable or even painful when driving many miles or when stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
Bare Feet vs. Improper Footwear
As opposed to driving barefoot, there are more occurrences of problematic driving involving inappropriate types of footwear. Countless mishaps could be avoided if proper footwear were worn that did not get caught under the pedals or get wedged underneath.
Shoes with loose or untied laces could get caught on the pedals. Footwear, like flip-flops, could fall off or get wedged under the pedals. Precious seconds could pass as a driver is distracted and tries to disentangle themselves from the pedals and regain control of their vehicle.
While not illegal, driving with improper footwear can be risky. High heels, for example, make it awkward for the foot to rest evenly and hinders a driver’s ability to apply even pressure to the brake, as only the ball of the foot is able to make contact with the pedal.
What is Appropriate Footwear?
Your footwear should be a shoe that covers the foot entirely, providing coverage above and below the foot. The sole of the shoe should not be too soft or too thin; at least 10mm in thickness is best.
A proper shoe must have enough tread on the sole to prevent your foot from slipping off the pedals. The shoe must not be overly heavy in weight and should not limit your ankle’s movement.
The sole or heel of the shoe should also not be too wide in order to avoid accidentally pressing both the accelerator and brake pedals at the same time.
Shoes with regular flat soles allow pressure to be evenly distributed, providing greater control when needed to slow down a vehicle or to switch gears.
To guarantee driving stability, consider keeping a pair of closed flat-soled shoes in your car, particularly when you drive to the beach or a cocktail party and are tempted to go barefoot or wear high heels.
Do Contributory Negligence Rules Apply?
Particularly in Maryland, insurance companies look for ways to blame drivers for their own car accidents, as they have every incentive to stop claims before they even begin.
Unlike most other states, contributory negligence rules apply in Maryland. If you are found to be even 1% responsible for an accident, you are not likely to recover.
A defendant could readily argue that it was negligent for you to drive a car without some sort of foot covering to protect your feet or to keep them from sliding off the gas or brake pedals.
Just because you were driving barefoot at the time of the accident does not mean you will not be able to recover for injuries caused by another driver’s negligence.
This may seem redundant, but the other side can only claim that you were contributorily negligent if your negligence contributed to the accident.
In other words, they must show that your bare feet impacted your driving abilities in some way. Some accidents cannot be avoided, no matter what another driver can do to respond.
Since wearing footwear is the more common practice, it’s difficult to determine what a judge or jury may ultimately decide regarding driving barefoot.
This is where contacting an experienced Easton car accident lawyer in Maryland becomes important. They can guide you through the process of contributory negligence and ensure you maximize your chances for recovery.
Can You Use a Medical Emergency Defense for Barefoot Car Accidents in Maryland?
Medical emergency defenses can be used to prevent liability in instances where a sudden, unforeseeable medical condition causes an accident.
However, getting behind the wheel without shoes on does not fit within this exception, even if you are rushing to the emergency room. If the driver’s bare feet slipping off the pedals was the cause of the accident that resulted in injuries, the driver will still be liable for the damages caused, even if their reasons were virtuous.
In situations where you need to get medical attention immediately, it is always best to call an ambulance, which is designed to get you to the hospital quickly and safely.
Examples of Barefoot Car Accident Situations
By now, you’ve read quite a bit about how driving barefoot can make driving harder and potentially put you and other drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians in danger.
Sometimes, the best way to illustrate a point is to explain it through examples. In the following hypothetical situations, we will explain how barefoot driving may create dangers and impact liability for car accident injury cases.
Example #1: Barefoot Driving Causes Accident
Let’s say that Brian is heading back from the beach. Brian doesn’t want to put on shoes while his feet are wet and sandy because it would be uncomfortable and ruin his shoes.
However, for those same reasons, Brian’s foot slips off the brake pedal as he is heading toward a red light. Brian’s car slides into the intersection and collides with another vehicle, injuring the driver. Brian’s feelings about wet shoes won’t help him as a defense to the other driver’s claim against him.
Example #2: Barefoot Driving Doesn’t Cause Accidents but Contributes to It
In this situation, Brian is still headed toward the intersection, but the light is green, and Brian has the right of way. A driver coming from Brian’s right decides to make a right on red despite signage that blocks that option.
Brian’s lack of grip prevents him from stopping, and he collides with the driver-side door of the other vehicle, causing him injury. Under normal circumstances, Brian could sue the other driver for their negligent turn through the intersection that cut him off.
However, a jury could find that Brian’s failure to wear shoes while driving contributed to the accident. Under Maryland’s contributory negligence theory, Brian could be denied recovery for his injuries, even though the other driver was the primary cause of the accident.
Example #3: Medical Emergency
Now let’s suppose Brian wasn’t wearing shoes because he was in a hurry rather than wishing to avoid discomfort. In this situation, Brian was present during an accident on the beach and was transporting an injured victim to the nearest emergency room.
In the chaos, Brian forgot to put on his shoes. If Brian causes an accident because his foot slipped and he loses control of the car, he might attempt to assert a medical emergency defense.
However, medical emergency defenses are only valid if (1) the driver is the one experiencing the medical emergency and (2) the impact of the sudden medical situation on the driver’s abilities behind the wheel is unforeseeable. Therefore, Brian will still be liable for any damages that he causes.
Questions About Barefoot Driving and Liability for Car Accidents Injuries? Call Us Today
The exceptional Ocean City car accident attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras are familiar with every area of the law surrounding car accident liability, even unique issues such as barefoot driving. Get your questions answered for free by calling us today at (410) 694-7291.