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New Study Confirms That Open Windows Reduce COVID-19 Spread

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The open sunroof of the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban
The sunroof of the 2021 Chevrolet Suburban
Photo: Chevrolet

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC recommended opening your car windows when driving with others to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, researchers at Brown University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have completed a new study, which confirmed that driving with your windows down is your safest option.

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What did the study entail?

Researchers in the study set out to discover how airflow patterns inside vehicles affect the transmission of COVID-19. To do so, they simulated the in-vehicle airflow of a car moving at 50 mph under six window configurations.

The study only measured the transmission potential between a driver behind the wheel and a passenger in the back right of a two-row passenger car. This means that the study’s findings may not be entirely applicable to other vehicle types.

The interior of the 2020 Chevrolet Equinox
The interior of the two-row 2020 Chevrolet Equinox
Photo: Chevrolet

What were the results?

Researchers found that having all your windows down is the safest way to drive since it has the most air changes per hour. With this configuration, the aerosols that the driver exhales only have about a 0.2-2 percent chance of reaching the rear passenger. However, with all the windows closed, this chance increases to roughly 8-10 percent, making this configuration the most dangerous option.

Besides keeping every window open, another good option is to have all the windows down except for the one next to the passenger. Researchers also discovered that opening the two windows by the empty seats is surprisingly more effective than opening the two windows closest to each person.

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These researchers plan to continue studying in-vehicle airflow moving forward. They intend to discover how vehicle speed and the amount your windows are rolled down also affect COVID-19 transmissions.