Coronavirus restrictions are easing up across the United States and families are venturing outside. What are they doing? Getting in the car and hitting the road.
The Daily Travel Index, which draws data from GPS signals, noted a 59% increase in road trip activity in May. This is just the beginning: AAA predicts more people will take to the road this summer and fall more than ever before. Research from MMGY’s DK Shifflet suggests consumers will be willing to travel up to 500 miles this summer, compared to the historical benchmark of 300 miles.
But is driving safer than flying?
Overall, the answer is yes, only because you can make the rules for the safety of your car — and you’ll never have this much control over your environment on a plane.
“The greater potential risk of exposure lies not in the ‘road’ part of ‘road trip’ but in what you do once you get out of your vehicle or arrive where you’re going,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. “Hotels, restaurants and other indoor environments will increase the risk if those venues haven’t adopted good infection control protocols.”
Follow these nine recommendations, compiled by the travel experts at Global Rescue for a safe drive.
Travel Only With People In Your Immediate Household
If a bunch of buddies from different households are piling into the car for a road trip, you can’t be sure where they’ve been, what coronavirus precautions they’ve taken, or if they’ve been around any symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers.
But if everyone has been in the same house, you know where they’ve been and how well they’ve protected themselves. You’re moving your home safety bubble to the car.
Don’t Travel If You Don’t Feel Well
Some airlines will ask for testing prior to travel or documentation stating you haven’t faced an illness for the past two weeks. Even if you are driving, “be honest with your travel history,” said Jacqueline Sioson, operations supervisor at Global Rescue. “If you are unwell or have signs and symptoms of COVID-19, postpone your travel and seek medical consult.”
Roll Your Windows Down
Sounds counterintuitive, right? Opening windows lets germs and microbes inside. But a recent study by Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases found “the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment.”
The more fresh air, the less risk of coronavirus transmission for you and your loved ones.
Follow Safety Precautions While Outside Your Car
Wear a mask, disinfect high touch surfaces like gas pumps and keypads, wash your hands with soap and water, use 60% alcohol (70% isopropyl alcohol) disinfectant and maintain social distancing. Remain vigilant and continue to do all the things you’ve been doing for the past 75 days.
Follow Safety Precautions While In Your Car
Forbes points out that your car, truck or SUV is a high-touch surface both inside and out. You are going to have to disinfect frequently, in fact, every time you get back in after a stop at a grocery store or rest area. This means disinfecting your door handles, seatbelts, steering wheel, turn signals, phone and phone chargers, radio buttons and any other car part you may have inadvertently touched (rearview mirror, glovebox or keys).
You may also want to consider wiping down the cooler and fold-up chair you’ve stored in the trunk, the groceries you’ve added to the hatch, or the purse you’ve placed on the back seat. In addition to people, items are coming in and out of your car and you’ll want to disinfect as much as you can. This will help preserve your vehicle as your “safe space.”
Limit Your Stops
Making stops along the way for gas, food or bathroom breaks may put you at risk of contact with other people.
“Bring enough food and water during travel to limit stops,” Sioson said.
Keep Your Face Mask On
Masks can feel claustrophobic, especially when you’re already in an enclosed space. Your first instinct will be to rip off that mask the moment you get inside your car. But where are you going to put it? It could be contaminated from your last foray outside the car, so you’ll want to have a container or Ziploc bag to store it — otherwise you’re going to have to disinfect every surface the mask touched.
Plan Your Route
And we mean plan like you’ve never planned before. Even if it’s a familiar route — a visit to grandma’s house — you still need to organize your trip down to the last detail. You never know what restriction or difficulty awaits down the road.
Check quarantine requirements in each state. You may not be free to come and go.
Some states have announced changes to toll collection. According to AARP, Florida has suspended all in-person toll payment and drivers without an electronic pass are billed by mail.
Some states have closed rest areas or limited hours of availability. Here’s a list of Department of Transportation websites and phone numbers. You’ll want to call to make sure the rest area is open, because it is likely that the bathrooms at restaurants and gas stations will be closed as well.
Check conditions along your route and at your destination to ensure that you’re not traveling through — or to — a hot spot. Global Rescue’s free Coronavirus Daily Report includes a map with hot spots, details on state-by-state restrictions, stay-at-home orders — and you can sign up for daily update alerts.
Have A Back Up Plan
Global Rescue’s travel protection services memberships will keep you safe when you are traveling 100 miles or more away from home. Members can call at any time to get coronavirus updates for their destination, information on local hospitals or health care providers and if needed, evacuation services to your home hospital of choice. Learn more by clicking here.
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