Lifestyle Guides

Coronavirus: 11 ways drivers can stay safe 

Covid-19 has changed life for the foreseeable future and we've all got to get used to the "new normal". Motorists are no exception, so we've investigated how you can protect yourself and others, based on the constantly changing information available.

parked car Coronavirus lockdown

During the UK lockdown, driving hasn’t been totally banned, but leaving your home is only permitted for specific, essential reasons, such as commuting to and from work (if you can’t work from home) and buying food. 

The simplest safety advice for drivers is to stay at home. But what if you have to go somewhere?

Here are 11 tips to help you stay safe and lower your chances of contracting Coronavirus when travelling by car.

1) Check your car over

If your car hasn't been used for an extended period, you should carry out a few simple safety checks before even contemplating a trip for one of the essential reasons allowed. Read our tips to make sure your car is safe and roadworthy during the Coronavirus lockdown

2) Give your car a deep clean

Covid-19 can last on some surfaces for up to 72 hours, so your vehicle could harbour the virus. Give your car a deep clean and focus on common touch-points including the external handles, steering wheel, indicator stalks and gear lever. Read our essential guide for advice on cleaning and disinfecting your car

3) Wash your hands regularly

Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water before leaving your home to enter your car. Also, repeat this as soon as you return home. Handwashing is the best way to avoid catching Covid-19 and stemming the spread of the virus. If you don’t have immediate access to soap and water then use an alcohol-based hand rub, if available.

4) Keep hand sanitiser in your car

Keep a bottle of hand gel, hand rub or hand sanitiser in your car (it must contain at least 60% alcohol). Rub your hands for 20 to 30 seconds to make sure they’re properly sanitised. If you leave your car and return while you're out – maybe to go shopping – re-apply hand gel every time. Also consider wearing gloves.

5) Consider a face mask

Consider wearing a face mask or respirator (they contain a filter). These aren’t compulsory in the UK, but many people have already taken the decision into their own hands, choosing surgical masks and non-medical face coverings, such as scarves or bandanas. 

However, there's a debate over the effectiveness of face masks. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently says only two groups of people should wear protective masks: those who are sick and showing symptoms and those caring for people suspected to have Coronavirus. 

6) Driving with passengers

If you must go anywhere by car, preferably go alone, or only with members of your household. If you have to transport a passenger from outside your household – maybe for medical reasons, or because you work together and there’s no alternative way to get there – the Government advises "good ventilation (i.e. keeping the windows open) and facing away from each other may help to reduce the risk of transmission". Follow up by deep cleaning your car

You may want to go further and insist on the wearing of face masks and gloves in order to lower the risk of spreading the virus, because it’s impossible to follow the normal social distancing guidelines while travelling in a car.

7) Wear gloves to fuel up

If you stop off at a service station for petrol or diesel, take advantage of the disposable gloves on offer or wear your own. If possible, get a full tank of fuel so you can minimise future trips. If you drive an electric vehicle (EV) or hybrid car and go to a charge point, get a full charge for the same reason. 

Conventional car drivers should pay at the pump with a card if possible. If not, go to the kiosk, maintain social distancing of two metres and preferably use a contactless payment method. Most EV owners already pay via apps.

8) Drive sensibly

The roads have been quieter than usual during lockdown, but that doesn't mean you can change your driving habits. Speeding and allowing yourself to be distracted can cause accidents. The last thing the emergency services need at a time like this is being called out to an incident, so drive sensibly.

9) Drive-through safety

Take precautions if you visit one of the increasing number of fast food outlets and restaurants offering a drive-through service. 

Put on a pair of gloves to receive your order from the window, then place your food on the floor of your car. If you don't have gloves, use hand gel immediately after receiving your order. 

Don't use cash to make your payment – pay in advance or use a contactless card.

10) What to do if you break down

The major breakdown service providers are still working, rescuing customers who break down at the roadside and at home. If you have symptoms or are self-isolating, the AA asks that you explain this when you report your breakdown – it should still be able to help you in most circumstances. 

Policies vary between providers, but most will do all they can to fix more vehicles on the spot because many garages are closed. 

If your car can't be repaired and it needs to be recovered or towed, you may not be able to travel in the cab due to social distancing. Instead, you may have to remain in your vehicle while it's being towed.

11) Car security precautions

Don't forget your personal safety and car's security during the Coronavirus pandemic. For instance, if you run your car’s engine outside your home during the lockdown in order to charge up the battery, don’t leave it unattended. 

Also, incidents of keyless car theft, or relay theft, have increased over the last few years so it's vital to keep your keys in a safe place as far from the front door as possible, and preferably in a metal box. Read our guide to find out how to protect your car against relay theft.

I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.

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