As you travel down the road, you may see people wearing face masks while driving, prompting you to wonder whether you should be, too.
Although wearing a mask is an important way to help limit the spread of COVID-19, it’s not necessary when you’re in the car alone.
“Masks are intended to help reduce others’ exposure to respiratory droplets we emit as we talk, breathe, cough, laugh and sneeze,” says Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health. “If you aren’t around others, you don’t need to wear one.”
Dr. Harmon generally recommends people remove theirs masks while driving alone because masks can reduce your field of vision. However, he says it’s important to wear a mask if you’re going to be in the car with others who don’t live with you.
“That said, if you can, it’s best to avoid traveling with people who aren’t in your household,” Dr. Harmon says. “The more people you are in close contact with, the greater the chance of acquiring COVID-19.
“If you are going to be traveling with others, improve ventilation by keeping the windows open or by setting the vehicle’s ventilation to non-recirculation mode.”
Remember that if you are ill or have been in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) with someone with COVID-19, you should stay home and avoid travel except to seek medical care.
Other tips for driving safely during the pandemic:
- Keep a COVID-19 kit in your vehicle that contains masks for each occupant, sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol (for use when you cannot wash your hands with soap and water).
- Before you leave, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer. Once you reach your destination, wash your hands again with soap and water or use hand sanitizer as soon as possible.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as the steering wheel, gear shift, door frame/handles, windows, radio/temperature dials and seat belt buckles.
- When using parking meters and pay stations, consider using alcohol wipes to disinfect surfaces or use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol after use. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as soon as possible.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth after removing your face mask. Instead, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or, if soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer.
“As a general rule, it’s safest to stay home and cut down on travel as much as possible during the pandemic, especially if you are at high risk from COVID-19,” Dr. Harmon says. “If you need to leave, make sure to practice social distancing, wear a mask when around others and wash your hands regularly.”
Dr. Gerald Harmon
Vice President of Medical Affairs and Family Medicine Physician
Dr. Gerald Harmon, who has cared for patients in our region for more than 35 years, is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.Learn More
Medical University of South Carolina
U.S. Air Force Regional Hospital
American Board of Family Medicine
Meet the Expert
Dr. Gerald Harmon
Dr. Gerald Harmon, who has cared for patients in our region for more than 35 years, is a family medicine physician and vice president of medical affairs at Tidelands Health.