COVID-19 car sharing advice has been improved thanks in part to a study by Swansea University. The study found that opening car windows for ten seconds every now and then can cut down on the number of Covid-19 particles by 97%. This is three times better than closing them. The study also found that in opening car windows, this created pressure differentials that pull out the virus, so it can’t settle in the backseat of the vehicle.
At lower speeds large particles of the virus are able to fall onto a surface within a few seconds whereas the lighter particles can remain in the air for up to an hour.
When driving under 30mph (48kph), opening all four windows can be most beneficial. But on faster roads, opening two on a diagonal can have an even bigger impact.
Because Covid-19 is a vapour, and air travels very fast, airborne transmission of Covid-19 occurs in two ways: At first, it can be large liquid droplets coughed out, or through smaller aerosol spray like particles emitted when breathing.
At lower speeds large particles of the virus are able to fall onto a surface within a few seconds whereas the lighter particles can remain in the air for up to an hour. Therefore, the windows need to be open to push the particles out through the windows of the vehicle.
COVID-19 Car Sharing at Higher Speeds
The team at Swansea University were surprised, however, that when reviewing the data from the computer models and wind tunnel testing that the same could not be said when travelling on the motorway at higher speeds. They discovered that in severe air pressure instances, such as during high-speed travel, opening up two windows on one side of the vehicle can equally disperse the thickened-up particles in the air and help passengers feel much better. They discovered that it’s therefore only necessary to do it for 10 seconds at a time, every five to 10 minutes on each window.
Open Windows and Seating Locations
You would think that keeping the windows open constantly would be the solution when car sharing, however in doing so, passengers are then at risk from pollution from exhaust fumes and outside pollution which could end up being more harmful than protecting against Coronavirus.
The study went further to look at the locations that passengers were positioned in the vehicle. It was far better to be sat in the front seat than sitting in the back if two were travelling in the vehicle due to the airflow direction circulating throughout the vehicle. They concluded that for passengers that are sitting in the rear of the vehicle that they should sit on the opposite seat of where the window is being opened.
As expected, wearing a face mask was shown to reduce the spread of the virus from the breath 90% and by 70% from inhalation. This goes to support the approach of maintaining the wearing of facemasks on public travel and backs up previous studies that wearing face masks helps stop the spread of COVID-19.
The research is of most use to community transport providers providing community car schemes, for private taxi firms and for ride-sharing services.
The study from Swansea University will be of particular interest as we move towards the autumn and winter months. Previous outbreaks of COVID-19 at factories in Wales had been linked to canteen use and car sharing between workers back in 2020.
As of August 2021, it is up to the transport service provider (excluding public transport) whether mask wearing and distancing is enforced. Variations still exist between England, Scotland and Wales. The latest Government advice is available here. If you do enforce the wearing of a mask, then it’s good practice to inform both driver and passenger in advance or have a paper mask available in the vehicle. At Road XS we are keeping our transport software updated as regulations and guidance changes to automate the workflows for transport providers during the pandemic.