Staying safe while driving amidst the pandemic

Although we’ve been under orders to shelter in place and avoid all nonessential travel, staying home isn’t always an option. Many of us need to go to work at essential jobs, get groceries, and pick up medication. Others may need to travel for a family emergency or other unavoidable reasons. States are beginning to reopen, more people will be out in the public in the next few weeks.

But how can we be safe while driving right now and in the months to come?

While we’re all safer at home, some trips are unavoidable as daily life slowing reopens. If you must travel during the coronavirus outbreak, whether to an essential job, the grocery store, or for a long-distance trip, follow these driving safety tips to keep yourself, your passengers, and other people safe.

1. Follow the Rules

Familiarize yourself with the travel regulations and guidelines set by the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, and your local health authorities. If you’re required to shelter in place except for essential activities, then shelter in place except for essential activities. As states begin to reopen, knowing where your state is at in the reopening process is important to follow the specific state rules.

As more states reopen, keep the following driving tips in mind to protect yourself and others.

2. Keep a Car Cleanliness Kit

Keeping your hands and your car’s surfaces clean is easy when you have disinfecting supplies on hand. Stash these essential items in your car to keep clean:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Disposable gloves
  • Re-sealable plastic bags
  • Tissues

3. Wash Your Hands or Use Hand Sanitizer Often

Regularly washing your hands is one of the best ways to remove germs, prevent the spread of germs to others, and avoid getting sick. The CDC recommends washing your hands with soap and water immediately after you’ve been in a public place or touched a frequently touched item or surface, such as a door handle, gas pump, shopping cart, card reader, etc.

However, if you’re in the car, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

4. Disinfect Your Car Frequently

After you’ve used a hand sanitizer, wipe down the high-touch surfaces in your vehicle with disinfecting wipes. This is especially important to do after you’ve been in a public place like a grocery store.

High-touch surfaces include:

  • Steering wheels
  • Keys or start buttons
  • Door handles and controls
  • Gear selectors or gear shifts
  • Seats and seat belts
  • Dashboards
  • Radio buttons and knobs
  • Touchscreens
  • Sun visors
  • Consoles
  • Cup holders

Don’t forget about cell phones! Even though it’s not a part of your car, it’s still a high-touch surface that can harbor germs.

5. Plan Your Route for Long Road Trips

You may have no choice but to make a long-distance road trip for a family emergency or other unavoidable reasons. Look up travel advisories beforehand, even if you’ve made the drive many times before.

Many states have made changes to things like toll collection, rest stops, and rest area food sales, and although no states have blocked through travel, some have established border checkpoints and screenings.

There’s a chance you could run into some temporary closures, delays, or detours along your route, so it’s best to know what to expect.

6. Limit Stops

You probably aren’t making many stops if you’re using your vehicle to travel to and from work, but if you’re on a long-distance road trip, try to limit the number of stops you make.

As important as it is to maintain good hygiene habits while we’re home, it’s even more important when it comes to high-traffic roadside rest areas, gas stations, and public bathrooms.

If you do need to make a stop, follow these tips to protect yourself and others:

  • While pumping gas, wear disposable gloves if possible. At the very least, use hand sanitizer before and after filling up.
  • In public bathrooms, don’t touch high-touch fixtures like faucets and door handles. Instead, use a tissue or paper towel to keep your hands clean.
  • Pay with cards, not cash. Cards can be cleaned and sanitized after use, and depending on the nature of the transaction, they may eliminate the need for face-to-face interaction.

7. Practice Gas Pump Safety

Gas pumps are filthy! Wear disposable gloves when touching gas pumps, keypads, buttons, and other high-touch areas that may not be regularly sanitized. Promptly dispose of gloves in a trash can, or if trash isn’t available, put the gloves in a re-sealable plastic bag to dispose of later.

If possible, use a contactless method of payment, such as a debit card. Paying at the pump eliminates the need for face-to-face interaction, and cards are easier to clean and sanitize than cash.

8. Use Car-Safe Cleaning Products

Many disinfecting products will sanitize your vehicle’s surfaces, but not all of them are safe to use in your car. For example, a bleach-based cleaner will certainly kill germs, but it will also stain your car’s interior. Remember to read labels!

9. Crack Windows to Air out Your Car

Leave your vehicle’s windows cracked in between rides for a few minutes a day to allow air to circulate and reduce your risk of getting sick. If you’re traveling with other people, keeping one window open just 3 inches can help prevent germs from accumulating.

10. Make Sure Other Drivers and Passengers Take the Same Precautions

Do you share your car with other drivers and passengers? Make sure everyone is taking the same health and safety precautions by properly disinfecting high-touch surfaces after each use. Travel only with other people you’ve been self-isolating with – otherwise you’re inviting potential sickness into the car.

It’s Still Safe to Go for a Drive!

If you’re itching to get out of the house, a drive may be just what you need! In most places, it’s safe to go for a short drive near your home as long as you aren’t making stops to get gas or grab food.

Keep in mind that some cities and municipalities are issuing tickets to drivers who violate stay-at-home orders by leaving home for nonessential reasons. While that doesn’t mean everyone who goes for a Sunday drive will get a ticket, it’s something to consider. Remember to exercise good judgment by only driving where you won’t have to make stops for gas or food.

As States begin to reopen, practice these same precautions of extra-car cleanliness as you start to have more interactions with the public. Driving will become a regular thing again, but continuing to keep car cleaning supplies and disinfecting the inside will help decrease your chance of bringing germs or the virus into your household.

And make sure you have adequate health insurance coverage! At VelaPoint Insurance, we’re still here for you online and over the phone. For questions on health coverage amidst the pandemic, speak to one of our licensed agents by calling 855-548-0727 or visit VelaPoint Marketplace for more information.