- Cars are a great socially distant mobility solution during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- It's also perfectly safe to drive a convertible during this time, according to Paula Cannon, a molecular microbiology and immunology professor at USC's Keck School of Medicine.
- The main thing is to make sure the inside of your car hasn't been exposed to the virus.
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Now that the summer months are in full swing, people are likely to take to their cars for a change of scenery and some fresh air. Cars are a seemingly perfect mobility solution during the COVID-19 pandemic; they help us maintain social distancing while also giving us a closed-off space to inhabit.
But what about convertibles? Yes — they, too, are perfectly safe to use during the pandemic.
Perhaps it is the open-topness of a convertible that is giving people pause but rest assured that just because a car lacks a roof, it doesn't mean it exposes you to the virus any more than a hardtop car would.
As long as the inside of the car — which is what you come in closest contact with — hasn't been exposed to someone with COVID-19, it's perfectly safe to drive. The virus can't suddenly enter the car just because the top is down.
"A convertible doesn't present any great risks," Paula Cannon, a professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles, confirmed to Business Insider.
One extreme hypothetical situation that Cannon outlines is if a convertible driver suddenly finds themselves stationary in a crowd and people are within six feet of the car (like perhaps if you get caught in a busy crosswalk or some sort of march).
"That would be the same risk as if you were standing in that same crowd," Cannon says. "So, I suggest you don't do that."
The chances of that happening while driving a convertible, however, are pretty low. And if it did, occupants are welcome to simply put the top up until the hazard has passed. Or, they could avoid places with frequent stops near high-pedestrian traffic areas altogether.
The actual risk comes more from who's in the car, not who's outside of it. Be thoughtful about who is in the car with you, Cannon advises. In fact, given a situation, it may indeed be more beneficial to have the top down when driving with others. "Certainly, having the top down makes it safer than being in an enclosed cabin," she says.
But despite discussing convertibles, Cannon's advice seems more applicable toward sharing cars in general.
If you are driving the car after someone else, for example, she recommends wiping down common touch points, such as the steering wheel, door handles, buttons, keys, window controls, climate vents, and gear selector lever to make sure everything is safe. It's also a good idea to wipe the car down after you yourself are done driving and intend on letting someone else drive.
"Again, the safest strategy is to be a little bit selfish," Cannon says. "Personally, it would be only in my own car, or with the people I am socially distancing with, or with a very small and select group of friends or family who I trust to also be socially distancing."
The most ideal situation for every individual — or self-isolating group — is to stay in their own cars, she says.
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