This Is the Biggest Mistake You're Making in Your Car, the CDC Says

Though it may sound counterintuitive, experts say you should do this one thing when driving.

Many of the questions you might have about protecting yourself from COVID-19 when you leave your home probably boil down to one place: your car. Should you open your car door with gloves? Should you put on your face mask before you get inside? And can you put your grocery bags directly in your trunk? There are lots of questions about car safety amid the pandemic. But if you're not doing this one simple thing, everything else is pretty much moot. In their guidelines for protecting yourself when driving or riding in a car, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises you to always do this one thing: crack the windows.

Given that we are dealing with an airborne virus, common sense might lead you to believe that keeping your car windows closed would help prevent contaminated air from entering your car. But, according to the CDC, you should be doing just the opposite. That's because improving ventilation can help to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

A study out of Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases found that "the odds that a primary case transmitted COVID-19 in a closed environment was 18.7 times greater compared to an open-air environment." So the more fresh air you can get, the better. Opening the window prevents the potential buildup of any contaminated particles already living on the surfaces of your car's interior from entering your eyes, nose, or mouth.

"When the windows are closed, SARS-CoV-2 (in fine aerosol particles that cause COVID-19) accumulates in the car cabin. With each new cough, the concentration builds up with no significant dilution happening. But even cracking one window open just 3 inches can keep this at bay," three experts wrote for USA Today.

In terms of using your car's air conditioning, the CDC says that it is safe to do so as long as you set it to non-recirculation mode.

It's important to remember that while cracking the windows is an effective precaution you should be taking, it is one of many equally important safety measures that can keep you safe in your car—including regularly cleaning and disinfecting your vehicle, and limiting the number of passengers you allow on any given trip. And for more ways to stay safe, check out 5 Sneaky Ways You're Exposing Yourself to Coronavirus.

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