Are there Driving Rules for Road Trips During the Pandemic?
June 8, 2020
Summer is vacation time. Although that is still true, the summer of 2020 will be like no other. Crowded theme parks, packed concert venues, lively festivals, and parades are not in the cards this year. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. At the same time, people still want to get away. The driving rules for summer road trips will be different this year, according to experts offering advice on staying safe during the pandemic.
Rules for Choosing a Destination
The first rule for a summer road trip is to take the time to plan. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), it is important to conduct extra research this year, even if you have taken a particular trip many times before. Different states have enacted new restrictions, including the following:
- Suspension of in-person toll payment. In some states, if you lack an electronic pass, you will be billed by mail, possibly at a higher rate.
- Restricted hours at state-operated service area food courts. Plazas that used to be open 24/7 may be closed when you arrive this year.
State-specific rules and restrictions are subject to change. To help plan your route, the Federal Highway Administration maintains a directory of the websites of all Departments of Transportation across the country. Next, think about the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 when choosing a destination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several websites dedicated to guidelines for travelers. The CDC notes that all 50 states have reported COVID-19 fatalities, and the risk of travel increases the chance of becoming infected or spreading the disease. CDC guidance states that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. However, if you decide to take the risk and go on vacation, the following are questions to ask when choosing a destination:
- Are COVID-19 cases increasing at the planned destination?
- Does the state or local government require a 14-day quarantine after traveling?
- Does the planned destination have adequate hospitals and other medical facilities available if someone contracts COVID-19 while on vacation?
Keep in mind that if an outbreak occurs at your destination, the state or local government could issue new shelter-in-place orders or even state border closures. Visiting outside venues is usually safer than staying indoors, as it can be easier to maintain the recommended six-foot social distancing perimeter. However, it may be especially dangerous to camp in remote areas where medical care is not available.
Rules for Choosing a Mode of Travel
All types of travel increase the risk of getting sick. However, air travel is considered among the most dangerous form of transportation because of its small, enclosed spaces, in addition to standing in security lines prior to a flight. Taking a bus or train may not be that much safer, as it could be difficult to avoid sitting within six feet of someone else when traveling.
According to the CDC, traveling by car or recreational vehicle (RV) still carries risks. Stopping for food, gas, or bathroom breaks exposes individuals to potentially contaminated surfaces. Although a well-equipped RV provides more options for avoiding bathroom breaks, drivers will still need to get gas and supplies.
The U.S. Travel Association reported a huge increase in RV sales and rentals in April 2020. Reasons for this spike include the belief that traveling in an RV may be the safest mode of transportation available right now. Only 15 percent of Americans believe air travel is safe, whereas more than 90 percent said they wanted to avoid crowds this summer. Renting or buying an RV is one option for getting away from it all; however, doing it safely requires following new rules for packing.
Rules for Packing
The CDC offers the following guidance for anticipating travel needs while packing:
- If taking medication, bring enough to last for the duration of the trip.
- Pack plenty of personal protective equipment (PPE), including face masks and gloves.
- Bring lots of hand sanitizer.
- Prepare plenty of food and bring enough to last several days in case restaurants or stores must close.
- Take bottled water.
- Bring disinfectant wipes and other cleaning supplies to disinfect hotel rooms or other places.
- Pay with a credit card instead of cash whenever possible.
Stop as infrequently as possible. When you do, wear disposable gloves when pumping gas. Avoid touching your face or eyes while stopped and wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Bring your own paper towels and toilet paper for the bathroom since air dryers can spread germs. After you wash your hands, cover your hand with a paper towel when turning off the faucets or using door handles.
If you are staying overnight at a hotel, expect some changes, such as the use of hospital-grade disinfectants and contactless check-in procedures. The American Hotel & Lodging Association has published stringent cleaning procedures for everything from elevator buttons to exercise equipment.
However, the CDC still recommends using your own cleaning supplies to wipe down doorknobs, tabletops, bathroom fixtures, and the TV remote.
Above all, do not travel if you are sick or if you have been exposed to someone who had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past two weeks.
Remember the Old Rules
It is still important to remember the tried-and-true rules of defensive driving, including to not text or talk on the phone, to not drink and drive, and to always watch out for the other driver. The days between Memorial Day and Labor Day have been dubbed by AAA as the 100 deadliest days of summer because the months of June, July, and August see an uptick in car accident fatalities caused by teen drivers. Teen driving crashes increase 26 percent in the summer compared to other months of the year. Teen drivers also cause the highest rates of car accident fatalities to pedestrians, passengers, and occupants of other vehicles. According to AAA, almost two-thirds of those injured or killed each year by teen drivers are individuals other than the teen driver.
In addition to more teens hitting the road in the summertime, other hazards are present during warmer weather, including more road construction, sun glare, and hot road surfaces that may affect tire traction.
Unfortunately, even the most vigilant motorists who practice defensive driving may one day find themselves on the wrong side of an accident.
Reading Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Accident Victims During the Pandemic
As lockdown restrictions are easing across the country, Americans still face the risk of getting into a car accident. If you are seeking trusted representation, do not hesitate to contact the Reading personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP today. We are ready to serve your legal needs. To arrange a free consultation either in person or via virtual consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or complete our online contact form. We represent accident victims throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.