Face coverings: should you wear one while driving?

face coverings
Wearing a face covering in a private car is a personal choice (Picture iStock/SbytovaMN).

From 15 June 2020, anyone in the UK travelling on public transport should wear a face covering to help limit the spread of COVID-19. But the rules about sporting masks or face coverings elsewhere are less clear. We look at what it means for car drivers.

What is the government advice about masks?

The government doesn’t want people to use medical grade masks as it wants to preserve stocks for healthcare professionals. But it does believe face coverings can reduce COVID-19 spreading.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “Wearing a face covering is an added precaution that may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood that a person with the infection passes it on.

“The most effective means of preventing the spread of this virus remains following social distancing rules and washing your hands regularly. It does not remove the need to self-isolate if you have symptoms.”

The rules on public transport

Where possible, the government wants people to avoid public transport in favour of working from home. But it has asked public transport operators in England to make wearing face coverings a requirement from 15 June. This applies to journeys by bus, coach, train, tram, ferry and aircraft. Staff will be provided with face coverings where appropriate.

A Department for Transport (DfT) statement reads: “While the government expects the vast majority of people to comply with the changes, operators will be able to refuse travel or issue penalty fines for those who fail to wear a face covering, in a similar way to the rules on having a ticket for travel.”

Should you wear a mask in a car?

There is no government guidance on wearing a face covering while driving. If you are driving in your car alone or with those you live with, whether to wear a mask in your car is entirely up to you.

You might decide to wear a mask in the car because you’re driving to catch a train and want to put the mask on in an environment where you’re certain of the hygiene. If that’s the case, you should be sure it can’t interfere with your vision or distract you while driving.

What about in a taxi?

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Wearing a face covering in a taxi is required by some operators (Picture iStock/Avdeev007)

Taxi passengers are in a very confined space with the driver. And the government advises people to wear face coverings in any public spaces where social distancing isn’t possible – like a taxi.

Most minicabs have stopped passengers travelling in the front passenger seat. And private hire firm Addison Lee is installing Perspex screens in its cars to separate passengers from drivers.

Taxi company Uber has made it compulsory for drivers and passengers to wear masks from 15 June 2020. It said: “If you aren’t wearing a face covering, your driver has the right to cancel your ride, and anyone who is repeatedly flagged for not wearing a face covering will risk losing access to the app.”

The DfT said: “Taxi drivers are already able to refuse carriage to passengers where it is reasonable to do so, this might include those that are able but refuse to wear a face covering.”

The benefits of face covering

Scientists are torn on how useful wearing a face covering or mask is. Whether it will protect the wearer depends on multiple factors. These include how small the mesh of the covering is and how well it fits. They do agree that if someone has the virus but shows no symptoms, wearing some form of face mask might help prevent them from unwittingly passing COVID-19 on.

How COVID-19 spreads

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What all the fuss is about: a microscope view of COVID-19 particles (Picture iStock/Naeblys)

COVID-19 spreads directly by droplets from coughs, sneezes and speaking. These microscopic droplets can also be picked up from surfaces by touch and subsequently from touching the face. That is why hand hygiene is so important in controlling the infection.

How to make a mask

The government has published instructions on how to make your own mask.

12 comments on “Face coverings: should you wear one while driving?

  1. Derek wtighthouse 15/06/2020 3:32 PM

    Face masks are a step back in time the deaf population there are approx180,000 people on the UK that are profoundly deaf over half of them depend on lip-reading which os impossible when wearing any type of face-covering when a normal hearing person trys to talk to a deaf perdon and that perdon cannot understand the hearimg perdon just gives up and walks away

  2. Joe Vallance 15/06/2020 5:03 PM

    steam up my specs

    • Keith Pattinson 01/08/2020 9:48 AM

      Muc-Off Anti-Fog Treatment. Cutting edge moisture absorption technology with an anti-mist formula to create a transparent, micro-thin coating so your ride is never cut short by a foggy visor or goggles. Our Anti-Fog Treatment lasts up to five days. Motorcyclists have been using this for decades.

  3. Jenny 01/08/2020 9:07 AM

    Hi Joe, prior to Covid19, I’d always washed my glasses every day with washing up liquid and I don’t have any problem with them steaming up.. I have special coating and it hasn’t damaged it. Whether it’s because I do it daily that helps, I’m not sure. I have really sensitive skin and eyes but providing you rinse and dry thoroughly it’s fine. Hope this helps

  4. spencer hare 01/08/2020 3:06 PM

    you have to be careful when taking it off that you don’t accidentally hook your hearing aids out.

    • Jean Smith 02/08/2020 10:58 AM

      Amazon have “extender strips” so that you can hook the mask at the back of your head. Doesn’t need to touch the ears.

  5. Maria Dale 01/08/2020 4:23 PM

    I wear a hearing aid and I am struggling to hear people as I tend to lip read. I unhook my mask on the opposite side to my hearing aid. I leave it dangling whilst out and about (better than below your chin.) Then I remove it carefully at home. I’m in Spain now and have to wear one in 30+ degrees. So don’t moan in the UK.

  6. Ron Barker 01/08/2020 6:19 PM

    It’s a bit late to be wearing masks at all we have not worn them since corvid-19 started now we are told to wear them in all shops and public transport, Now some idiot wants us to wear them in our own cars. No is the answer to that one. Or at least not compulsary, if people want to wear them that ‘s up to them. They could be proved to be very dangerous to a lot of drivers. So the answer is NO.

  7. David W Jones 02/08/2020 4:33 PM

    Seems like a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. Surely, if face coverings actually do any good, wouldn’t we have been advised to wear them from the beginning of the crisis?

  8. david masters 03/08/2020 8:20 AM

    i would advise wearing a mask in your car if you have a passenger who doesnt live with you…..common sense really

  9. Bobby 05/08/2020 10:47 AM

    I agree with all the comments above,it’s only a matter of time whether compulsory mask wearing will prove to be effective;then what?

  10. Grenville Saunders 13/08/2020 6:52 PM

    Masks do not stop COVID19 as you need a mask with proper filters attached also you should wear a mask after you have had a mask test to check it seals your face. Non of the masks being sold or being used in shops or transport would pass any tests to protect you. Ask anyone who tests PPE. In my works you would have to have a shave before putting on a mask for any use to protect you from any air borne hazard.

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