Open the passenger window and the window behind the driver

How rideshare drivers can transport riders safely during a pandemic

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), being a cab driver during the pandemic is one of the most dangerous jobs there is, so we want to ensure you’re keeping safe when transporting passengers to supermarkets, medical appointments, vaccination centers and elsewhere.

Until vaccinations for Uber drivers are available, you’ll want to take all the necessary precautions when working.

The New York Times recently reported on a study that had been done at Brown University to understand how the virus can spread in cars by using computer simulations. The results of the study inform us how we can open and close car windows to manage the airborne virus. 

The researchers based their study on a car similar to a Toyota Prius being driven at 50mph with the driver sat in the driver’s seat and a single passenger sat in the backseats on the opposite side of the car. 

Car illustration

What they first discovered was that the air inside a moving car flows from the back into the front. This is due to the air movement outside the vehicle creating a pressure gradient on the inside of the vehicle. As a rideshare driver, this means that your passengers are a higher risk to you than you are to them. So how do we help counteract this?

In all scenarios the team tested, the car air conditioning was turned on. Unsurprisingly, they found that the risk of transmission was most likely when all four windows were closed and less likely when all four windows were open. When all the windows were closed, the researchers found that about 8-10% of airborne particles reached both the rider and the passenger and this dropped to 0.2-2% with all the windows open. 

But, during the winter months, it’s unrealistic to be able to keep all the windows open consistently, as you’ll have rain, snow and cold temperatures to deal with. 

Open the passenger window and the window behind the driver

So the researchers tested some alternative and warmer methods that drivers could use to keep themselves and their passengers safe. The obvious method to roll down just the window next to the driver was more effective than keeping all windows closed. But the best option was to have the window behind the driver and the window in front of the rider open (where the driver and rider are sat on opposite sides, as pictured), with the windows directly next to each of them closed. 

This acts as a wind barrier between the driver and the rider as it “flushes out all the air that’s released by the passenger, and it also creates a strong wind region in between the driver and the passenger”. 

The New York Times also mentioned a follow-up study by the same researcher that has not been published yet but that found that the same benefits can be enjoyed by opening the windows just halfway as fully opening them. Opening them just one-quarter of the way was less effective, however. 

Apparently, these findings will generally apply to most 4-door cars with 5-seats, not just a Toyota Prius. 

So there you have it, be sure to open the two diagonal windows halfway to reduce your chances of infection and as always, drive safely!

 

Sources:

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregistereduptoandincluding20april2020#occupation-exposure-for-covid-19

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/16/health/coronavirus-transmission-cars.html

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/7/1/eabe0166