As Brownsville and South Texas reopen from the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown, you might wonder how much you should be driving and whether being in a car has changed in light of the virus.
For starters, you can expect higher gas prices. The slump in oil prices during the coronavirus lockdown was primarily due to lack of demand as people stayed home. As a CNBC report says, “Investors are looking at the reopening of the economy in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere as signals that drivers will have to fuel up.”
Higher demand means more people on the road and more traffic, which inevitably leads to more car accidents around Brownsville and Cameron County. Most car accidents are caused by a driver making a mistake caused by negligence or reckless driving, which can be avoided. Below are some reminders from the Brownsville personal injury lawyers of Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. to keep in mind as we get back in our cars and back to our lives.
It May Still Pay to ‘Social Distance’ When Driving in Texas
Restrictions that required a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers entering Texas on roadways from Louisiana, as well as all air travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have been terminated as of May 21. People from around the country were already taking refuge in Texas to avoid COVID-19 hotspots, according to KHOU TV in Houston. As we open up, we’re sure to attract more.
This may put some Texans in mind to stick with staying at home unless a trip in the car is essential. For those who venture out, Car & Driver suggested in the early days of the pandemic shutdown that you not offer rides to people who have not spent the shutdown with you. If you know someone who needs something, you could offer to pick it up for them.
If someone really needs your help, only transport one passenger at a time and have them keep their distance by sitting in the back seat, Dr. Avisheh Forouzesh, an infectious-disease specialist, suggested to Business Insider. Driver and passenger should be wearing cloth face masks.
When driving, open the windows or use the air conditioning system to keep the air circulating and moving airborne particles that may contain COVID-19 out of your vehicle’s passenger compartment.
Maintain social distancing, stay close to home and keep your car clean, Car & Driver suggested. The simplest way to attack COVID-19 on your car’s interior surfaces is with soap and water, such as most dish soaps, which use only mild detergents.
Summer Vacation Road Trips in the Age of COVID-19
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Before you travel, learn whether coronavirus is spreading in any of the places you are going. Traveling to visit family may be especially dangerous if you or your loved ones are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19, the CDC says. People at higher risk for severe illness need to take extra precautions.
Planning is key for staying safe and lowering your risk of contracting coronavirus if you have plans for a long driving trip. The AARP offers several safety tips for traveling by car as we look ahead to the Summer of 2020.
- Plan your route, even if you think you know it well. Many local jurisdictions have made changes since the lockdown began. For example, you may find rest areas closed or no longer offering food for sale. The Federal Highway Administration’s directory of state transportation department websites should have the latest information about state-specific coronavirus-related changes.
- Pack a cooler. Even as restaurants are allowed to open, many may not, whether for safety reasons or because they have gone out of business. Especially if your route takes you through rural areas and small towns, you could find it harder to stop for a meal anytime you want to.
- Clean up on vacation. There’s increasing evidence that COVID-19 doesn’t live long on surfaces, but there are plenty of other germs and diseases about, so it can only help to be careful. Pack hand sanitizer, disinfecting wet wipes, disposable gloves, sealable disposable plastic bags and tissues to protect yourself. Pay for gas with cards, not cash to eliminate face-to-face interaction. Debit and credit cards can be cleaned with a disinfectant wipe after use.
The AARP also suggests using your own sanitizing supplies to clean high-touch surfaces if you stay in a hotel or motel. These include exterior and interior doorknobs and handles; the TV remote and bathroom fixtures; and any surfaces you’ll rest your belongings on, such as tabletops or bathroom counters.
For tips on cleaning travel lodgings, car surfaces, nonporous surfaces, electronics, clothing, or even your hands, see the CDC’s guidance on how to clean and disinfect.
Safe Driving Tips That Fit All Driving Conditions
Even if one day the coronavirus is in our rearview mirrors and beginning to fade from sight, there are tried and true driving tips that will help to make Texas highways safer if we remember to follow them:
- Obey all speed limits and directional/informational signs.
- Be attentive and drive responsibly.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Always wear your seatbelts.
- Don’t talk on a cell phone while driving. Distracted driving increases your chance of a collision by nearly 400%. If you must use the phone, pull over to a safe, well-lit parking lot and complete your call there. (See also, distracted driving laws in Texas.)
- Always use your turn signals.
- Always come to a full stop at stop signs.
- Before pulling away from a stop sign or when a light turns green, always turn your head to look left, then right, straight ahead, then left again before proceeding. Make a point of looking at each vehicle in case someone is about to run the light / sign.
- Keep at least a four seconds worth of space between your vehicle and others. When the car in front of you passes a stationary object, slowly count to yourself. If you pass the object before the allotted time, back off. When traveling at night or in hazardous conditions, such as inclement weather, double the time to eight seconds.