A year into the pandemic and the Coronavirus doesn’t seem to be going away. If anything, it’s growing and multiplying. The only possible solution is to practice all safety protocols and make sure the disease stays at bay. One new safety protocol being advised by scientists is to travel with your car windows open all the way.
It has already been established that COVID-19 follows all the rules of any regular airborne disease transmission. The viral aerosols can remain in the air, can get transferred via air, will enter your body through air passages and so on. Therefore, confined spaces with recycled air will obviously increase the chances of transmission.
While you can avoid cinema halls and malls, one confined space that’s much harder to avoid is a car. A new study suggests that SARS-CoV-2 can be avoided by travelling in cars with open windows. Not just coronavirus, but it is a useful practice for avoiding most airborne diseases.
The study was conducted at Brown University in the USA. They used computer models to understand what happens to the air inside a closed car’s cabin and if any measures can be taken to mitigate the risks of coronavirus transmission or any situations which might increase the risk. They mainly studied aerosol distribution (aerosols are suspended solid or liquid particles that linger in the air. Coronavirus loads are contained within these aerosols emitted from a person’s cough/sneeze/breathe). The study has been published in the journal Science Advances.
According to Brown University official website, researchers used Toyota Prius to base their computer models for the study. The simulations were created with a drive in the front who sat diagonally to a passenger in the back row. This position allowed for the maximum distance between the two occupants of the car (social distancing is key, after all). Additionally, this is a common arrangement seen in car-share situations like Uber or taxi.
Then an airflow was induced in the computer simulation. They monitored the aerosol concentration around both the occupants inside the car going at about 80km/h. They concluded that the best way to travel in the “new normal” is to sacrifice the air conditioner and keep all four windows of the car all the way down. Closed windows, with the air conditioner on, was observed to be the “worst-case scenario” as it was the highest chance of transmission. This is because having all four windows open increases the air changes per hour (ACH). With air being expelled regularly, the aerosol concentration decreased significantly.
Additionally, because the car’s design and airflow, air generally enters through the rear window and exits from the front windows. This could decrease the chance of the driver’s aerosol’s reaching the passenger in then back.