How to keep COVID-19 at bay in vehicles

Ask someone what ‘social distancing’ means just a few months ago and they might think you’re taking a break from social media.

Fast-forward to today and it’s the most important step in preventing the spread of the coronavirus here in Australia and around the world.

It simply means keeping a safe distance away from other people by staying at least 1.5 meters away.

Besides following government guidelines to self isolate if you’ve been overseas, interstate or come into contact with an infected person, a car is a good way to maintain social distance compared to public transport.

As such, drivers are also urged to upgrade vehicle hygiene practices to help minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19. Viruses can live for up to nine days on hard surfaces inside the car if the conditions are right.

The good news is you don’t even have to use harsh chemicals or disinfectants to wipe down your vehicle, as normal hand or dishwashing soap with water will do just as good a job.

Sanitising your vehicle

Below are some measures you can take to reduce the spread of the disease:

  • Start with ‘high-contact’ surfaces in cars every time they are used. These include the interior and exterior door handles, steering wheel, gear shifters, light and wiper stalks and seat-belt buckles.
  • Use disinfectant wipes on infotainment touchscreen, buttons and switches to avoid any water getting into the electronics. Check your car’s owner’s manual for materials to avoid when cleaning the screen.
  • Clean the dashboard, backs of seats, windows and door cards, particularly those that would be in the line of fire for anyone coughing or sneezing.
  • Don’t forget vehicle key fobs, seats, interior grab handles, armrests, cup holders and air conditioning vents that should also be wiped down.
  • Child restraints should also be cleaned thoroughly.
  • Wear gloves when cleaning and/or wash your hands thoroughly before and after.
  • Limit vehicle passengers as much as possible to maximise social distance. If you are sharing a vehicle, avoid physical contact with other occupants such as shaking hands.
  • Take particular care when refueling vehicle and ensure hands are washed or sanitised after handling fuel pumps and touching cash or EFT terminals and any other public surfaces during the transaction.

FCAI Chief Executive Tony Weber said taking these simple measures may help stem the rising tide of infections without impacting mobility.

“As social distancing measures limit transportation options, Australians are looking to their cars as a more isolated means to conduct essential travel, and in some cases are even receiving vital infection screening from their vehicle.

“Maintaining hygiene can assist in preventing transmission. It is just as important as cleaning any other surface. Cars should be sanitised every time they are entered or exited.

“With common sense and consistency, we can help to limit the spread of coronavirus and mitigate the impact of disrupting essential mobility,” Mr Weber said.