Should I Be Wearing a Mask in the Car?

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More states are now requiring residents to wear a facial covering in public. But even the strictest jurisdictions have vague guidelines for wearing a mask. On Wednesday, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy ordered all Garden State residents to wear a mask in public, but added that it only applied when you could not properly distance from others. In other words, you must wear a mask if you are in an area where other people are present.

So you may have been left scratching your head when seeing people wearing masks while driving a car. That’s excessive, you might think, before wondering, Should I also be doing that?

The answer is, unfortunately, also ambiguous. Here’s what should be taken into account regarding mask wearing while driving.

Are you driving alone?

If you are the only person in your car, you likely don’t need to wear a facial covering. After all, you are protected by the walls of your vehicle, and will likely have more than the requisite six feet of distance from anyone else.

But if you have other people in the car with you, the answer gets tricky. If your passengers don’t live in your household, and you don’t know who they’ve come into contact with in the past 14 days, you should all probably wear masks. This is for the same reason you would wear a mask in a supermarket or office building. It protects others from inhaling droplets that could escape your mouth or nose.

Are the windows down?

Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have relaunched with new, COVID-era safety guidelines. Among them is a requirement to keep windows open so that germs don’t ruminate inside the car. (Of course, another rule is that passengers and drivers must wear masks, for the reasons above). Still, if you are driving alone with your windows open, you might want to keep a mask on. This is particularly true if you’re driving through residential neighborhoods where you might get close to pedestrians.

Is your vision clear?

In addition to all these heightened safety precautions, it’s still imperative that your field of vision is clear while driving. If your face covering blocks your vision in any way, it’s probably safer to take it off.

Use your judgment

Whether you’re in the car, at the market or in your living room, use your judgement as to whether you need to cover your face.  At the end of the day, everyone is still learning to adapt to the new norms of a pandemic society. While we must do our best to follow safety precautions, understand that everyone is still adapting. No need to start a fight with people who are taking extra care.

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