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Now Is Not the Time for a Social Distancing Road Trip


In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s safe to say that we’re all getting pretty antsy right now. Trapped in the confines of a big metropolitan area, it’s hard to do anything without worrying about social distancing, let alone thinking about when and where you’ll have the next opportunity to wash your hands. Natural human instinct is to want to get far far away from people and civilization right now. But that isn’t such a great idea.

You probably don’t need us to tell you this though, as virtually any and all ‘destination towns’ in the United States have virtually shut down. Restaurants have moved to takeout-only menus, bars have shut down completely, businesses and resorts have closed and any and all events scheduled to take place over the next few months have been canceled or postponed indefinitely. Small ski towns like Park City, Utah, Sun Valley, Idaho and Crested Butte, Colorado are already experiencing COVID-19 breakouts well in excess of the national average, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, so the fewer people coming in and out of these places, the better.

What about wild places, you might ask? Well, in a controversial move, the Department of the Interior had originally announced it was waiving national park entry fees as a way to invite people to spread out. But with several parks choosing to close their gates due to skyrocketing risk of contagion, as Time reported, and others poised to follow, it appears that a visit to any of the country’s national parks will soon be off the table as well. And this makes sense as, like the ski towns mentioned above, the remote towns that support these parks, like Moab, Utah, or Jackson, Wyoming, are ill-equipped to handle a coronavirus outbreak due to their limited health care infrastructure. This means that these isolated communities could be decimated by the virus if it were to spread within their borders, and any visitors risk spreading the virus throughout these vulnerable communities.

What about unaccounted for spaces like BLM land or national forests? The less movement right now, the better. The issue in these cases isn’t the destination, but the journey, which despite even our best efforts, will likely require a stop at a gas station at the very least. The data shows that the best way to avoid spreading or contracting the coronavirus is by staying in our homes.

If you absolutely must take a road trip — and you should really only be doing so if your job requires it or if you’re caring for your own health or for that of others — here are a few tips that can help to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19 while out on the road.

Plan Ahead

Given the decreased margin for error that exists right now, it’s important to plan ahead. If you absolutely need to be on the road, take a more careful approach to trip planning and make sure you have everything with you that you need. Be sure to also bring items with you to keep your vehicle sanitized and to sanitize anything you find yourself needing to touch while on the road.

Bring Food

Bring enough snacks on the road with you to hold you over until you arrive at your destination, or prepare a meal at home to eat on the road. In the interests of social distancing, high-traffic areas like restaurants and rest stops are the last places you want to be right now.

Be Careful Pumping Gas

Gas pumps and gas station convenience stores are other high-traffic areas where you run an increased risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19. Take every measure possible not to touch any surfaces while pumping gas or paying at the gas station. For more, check out our tips on how to avoid contracting coronavirus at the gas pump.

Mitigate Risk

Health care providers, hospital facilities and first responders are stretched to their limits right now, and those that aren’t currently likely will be in the coming weeks. For this reason, it’s best to avoid physical risk as much as possible right now to avoid putting further strain on these resources that are more valuable than ever when it comes to fighting the coronavirus.

The best way to avoid risk and avoid spreading the virus is to stay at home. 

Looking for more information relating to you, your vehicle and the COVID-19 pandemic? Check out more of Autotrader’s coronavirus content.

Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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