A Driving Instructor's Blog

COVID-19

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The Jen Fog fogging machineRegular readers will know I have referred to JennyChem before, mainly in my article about smearing windscreens. I buy their brand of TFR.

I got an email from them today announcing the launch of their new defogging machine, which claims to do anti-viral sanitising as well as removing tobacco and pet odours. It can be used in cars and for treating small living spaces. It’s called The Jen Fog.

At £145, it’s quite a bit cheaper than other fogging machines, and it comes with 5L of the fogging liquid. Each treatment takes about 20 minutes.

The fogging liquid itself costs £17.50 for 5L. You can even choose between unfragranced, Cherry, Tea Tree and Pine, Strawberry, and Bubblegum scents.

The machine has a 400ml reservoir, and each fill will treat up to 30 cars. So a 5L bottle will be good for up to 375 treatments!

Those numpties looking at buying things to clip on to their air vents should invest a little more – actually, only three times more, because they’re being ripped off with those dinky things – and buy the real McCoy. If anything is going to sanitise the car properly, it’ll be something like this – which is much more cost-effective than some of the prices for ‘refills’ I’ve seen being bandied around social media.

If anyone is interested, these are the datasheets for the FogSan fluid, and it has been tested and confirmed as a viricide.

Datasheet

Product Spec Sheet

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Three American MoronsAmerica has a problem. Actually, America has many problems. But with COVID-19, some problems stick out more than others.

Mind you, I say that. But in America right now, pretty much all problems stick out. One of the current ones is in Texas. It seems they have had daily new cases of COVID-19 jump from 2,000 to 6,000 (the article says 5,000, but it is actually 6,000 right now) in a few weeks. Putting that in perspective, Texas has a population which is about a third of the entire UK, yet our maximum number of daily cases has never – apart from one day in April, where I think care homes were added – been much above about 6,000. And the charts indicate it is still accelerating in Texas.

Of course, we had the lockdown. And apart from a worrying number of morons ignoring it, that has brought our daily cases down to around 1,000.

In a similar vein, Texas has seen around 150,000 cases overall. So far. That’s already half of what we’ve seen with three times as many people, and a higher population density.

America has a complicated political structure, whereby state government mainly calls the shots, but this is further complicated by the various amendments to The Constitution, meaning the people pretty much decide whether they follow the Law or not (it’s the ‘Land of the Free’, after all). And if anyone tries to make them, they get their guns out and it gets even more complicated (it’s also the ‘Land of the Stupid’ at the best of times). And all this is completely legal, thanks to that same Constitution.

You could write forever about the American system. But the point I wanted to make was about wearing face masks. It seems that the Texas Governor has urged people to wear masks ‘where it is indicated’. This has proved unpopular – violently so, from what I can gather. And my question in the title is simply illustrated by the photo from the BBC.

See if you can spot the morons in it. Hint: there are three of them, and I’ve numbered them just in case you can’t work it out.

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COVID SOM imageJust saw this in the news. Driving lessons can recommence from 4 July 2020.

I’m now going to have to let most of my pupils go, since I cannot start immediately as I am still isolating to protect my elderly parents. And it’s too soon, anyway (we can’t socially distance, and far too many new cases of the virus are still occurring daily).

On the plus side, there will be no more idiotic social media posts about ‘when can we go back’ and ‘well, technically, we never had to stop’.

And the official DVSA email has now come through.

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Covid-19 on blackboardQuestion: Can I start doing lessons yet?

Answer: There is no Law which directly says you cannot. As in, there is no Law which specifically states ‘driving instructors must not give lessons’. This is probably why your grocer, your hairdresser, your mum, your nan, the police, DVSA, some weirdo you met in the park last night, all your Facebook ‘friends’, and any one of the millions of other people you have repeatedly asked the same question of hasn’t given you the answer that you want. And you’re not going to find the answer by resorting to ‘alternative news’ websites operated by anti-vaxxers and non-qualified ‘medical advisors’.

Obviously, you have a problem with simple logic. But let me try to help.

COVID-19 kills people. Even if it doesn’t kill you, it can kill others. And it does – quite a few of them so far, in fact. Unfortunately, whether or not it does kill you if you catch it can vary in probability from quite unlikely all the way up to virtually guaranteed. The problem is that you don’t know where you are in that range until you try it. And among the higher primates, that is generally regarded as a high-risk strategy, and one to be avoided unless you want to get on the wrong side of Natural Selection.

Now, this is where it is going to get really hard for you to understand. The COVID-19 virus itself is small – much smaller than anything you can imagine. You’d be able to fit more than 30,000 of them across a single French Fry that you’d get with, say, your Happy Meal. They are not physically stopped by anything other than a completely solid and sealed barrier. The simplest way of imagining them is by thinking what happens if either you or your pupil farts on a lesson (or if one of you is particularly odoriferous). Let’s call it the ‘Fart Factor’. Both of you can smell it no matter how much the culprit denies doing it, and neither of you can do anything realistically possible to avoid smelling it. If that fart (or BO) were COVID-19 wafting around, then smelling it means you caught it.

In order to reduce the spread of this fart-like COVID-19, it is important that close person-to-person contact is restricted and – wherever possible – eliminated. That is why we have the ‘2 metre rule’ to keep people away from each other if they meet, and the ‘isolation’ principle otherwise. Two metres is about six times the distance a French Fry travels each time you move it from your tray to your mouth. It is therefore considerably further than the distance between you and your pupils when you’re in your car.

You may have heard talk of reducing this separation distance to 1 metre, or even half a metre. In a car, you are as close as a few centimetres at least some of the time – particularly when a pupil decides to take evasive action over a squirrel they might have seen in a tree 200 metres up the road, and you have to intervene.


Question: I used to clean my car anyway between pupils, so what’s the problem now?

Answer: You used to clean your car because of colds and flu, a build up of gunk from excessive use of hand cream by some pupils of a certain gender on the gear knob, or possibly bad smells left by others with questionable hygiene. At a guess, you’ve probably still had colds and flu in spite of all your cleaning, so it didn’t work. Did it? You might already be able to see where this is heading.

Even that build of gunk on the gear knob is actually there before you can see it. All you did with your precautions was shift the risk – maybe, and only by a little – in your favour. And as we’ve already noted, it wasn’t enough. You still caught colds, and possibly even an interesting skin disorder in some very rare cases. Well, that initially invisible gunk could easily be a coating of COVID-19, and scraping or wiping it off obviously carries an increased risk of exposure above and beyond the fact you were in the car with someone who had it in the first place.

I refer again to the fact that COVID-19 kills people. There’s no vaccine right now, and it is not a cold or flu. If your cleaning precautions fail with COVID-19, keep your fingers crossed there’s no bullet in that particular chamber of the gun you’re now holding to your head. And maybe spare at least a passing thought to all the other people you will now have put in the same situation.


Question: Does an antibacterial sanitizer kill viruses?

Answer: Well, viruses are not actually ‘alive’ in the same way as bacteria are, but the simple answer is yes – most of them. What happens is that a good sanitizer which contains alcohol will ‘denature’ the shell around many viruses and destroy them. This might be less effective for something like Norovirus, which is resistant to alcohol, but it will destroy COVID-19.

However, the whole process relies on actual – and relatively prolonged – contact between the alcohol and the virus. COVID-19 doesn’t turn and run at the mere sight of a bottle of sanitizer. So the $64,000 question is always going to be: did I miss a bit?

I stress that this only applies to alcohol-based sanitizers containing at least 60% alcohol. It does not apply to that hypo-allergenic, vegan, organic citrus-based product with Ylang Ylang and Tea Tree Oil in it in the pretty bottle your Wellbeing coach on Instagram advised you to buy (probably from her).


Question: Does bleach kills viruses?

Answer: As above, the short answer is yes. However, be aware that bleach is also toxic to pretty much everything else, and can cause serious burns if not diluted properly. These burns can lead to permanent nerve damage and also serious eye damage if any gets in those. It also causes breathing problems, especially in people who already have respiratory issues. From a safety perspective you need to be asking if your cleverly devised ‘risk assessment’ has truly considered all the risks – as opposed to having been deliberately constructed just to give you an excuse to start working again –  before sticking bleach in spray bottles and squirting it around inside the car.

Also be aware that bleach can cause an allergic skin reaction in some people even at normal dilutions, the outcome of which can still lead to nerve damage. Skin allergies can develop over time, and don’t always occur immediately. And the long-term effects of bleach on the plastics and fabrics in your car are unlikely to be of the positive variety. Bleach at any concentration should not be used as a hand-sanitizer.

You ought to consider all this before concluding that Domestos is cheaper than alcohol-based hand sanitizer.


Question: Do face masks work?

Answer: Viruses are not stopped by normal face masks (aka surgical masks’). All these do is catch some/most of the larger droplets of moisture (containing the virus), and this reduces the number of virus ‘spores’ being circulated beyond the mask. It doesn’t eliminate them. And of course, until they become inactive, the mask is still contaminated with them when you fling it on to the back seat and it dries out, while you put a clean one on

All you have to do is try one while you’re wearing glasses and see how easily they steam up. Well, that ‘steam’ could easily contain viruses, and that’s where the Fart Factor comes into play again (including what that dirty one on the back seat is doing while you continue your lesson). Also consider that the ‘steam’ is coming from the other person in the car too, and if your ‘steam’ can get out, theirs can get in through the same channels. And vice versa.

You need proper respirator masks to give any serious protection against viruses. At least an FFP2 or FFP3. These are single use, like surgical masks, but create a tight seal around the nose and mouth, and have a small enough pore size to stop viruses. They’re difficult to breathe through as a result, and the tight fit makes them uncomfortable – especially worn over long periods. And they cost about £3 each – if you can get them. In theory, you can wear one for up to 3 hours, but if you take it off at any point you ought to use a new one.

Proper respirators can cause facial skin damage if worn repeatedly and/or for long periods.


Question: Does having the windows open reduce the risk?

Answer: If you’ve ever driven at moderate speed with the windows fully open, and had empty plastic bags on the back seat for any reason, you will probably have experienced what can happen. The bags can get pulled into a vortex – a bit like a tornado – inside the car, spin a round for a while, then get sucked out of the windows. Let’s call this one the ‘Vortex Factor’.

If you’re desperate to return to work, you might be tempted to conclude from your ‘risk assessment’ that yes, having the windows open reduces the risk. But just ask yourself what happens while that vortex – this time containing invisible COVID-19 spores stirred up from old masks and things – is still inside the car, and before it heads for the windows. And think further about what happens when the vortex is less as a result of the windows being only slightly open, so it never bothers with a full exit. Think Fart Factor.

The last week has seen many torrential downpours around the country, and these look set to continue for the next week at least. It’s what often happens in summer in the UK. If it rains, and the car windows are open even a little, you get wet. If this concept is still too difficult to understand, I will write a separate article on why rain is wet, and why it gets in through open windows.

The short answer is that having the windows open could actually increase the risk in one way, even if it could potentially reduce it in another. At best, the two just cancel each other out – but I would think the increased risk carries more weight than the reduction. And you’ll get wet if it rains.


Question: Do those wing-dang-doodles you plug into the USB socket work?

Answer: People have started looking at fitting ‘air purifiers’ in their cars. Such a device would have to process all the air before it was passed on to you to breathe to be of any use. And I mean all the air. You see, air is an ideal Fart Factor medium, and it is very difficult to keep one bucket of air containing a fart away from other (clean) buckets of air, unless the buckets you use are completely sealed – much like in a balloon. In order to implement this for a human, said human would need to be in a completely sealed suit, and have the purified air fed to them inside the suit via hoses from the processing unit. One bucket of air would be good for two, maybe three deep breaths, and this is why scuba divers have tanks of compressed air with them underwater, since two or three breaths tends to limit how much exploration of the ocean depths is possible. To filter air on demand – and especially to the level of filtration needed to remove viral particles – means the processing unit would need to be at least the size of a large suitcase. And you’d still need to be inside a sealed suit to use it, otherwise it would be pointless.

If you can guarantee that each and every COVID-19 ‘spore’ passes through something which ‘kills’ it before it get’s anywhere near your nose, mouth, or bare skin, any device which claimed to do this would be an ideal investment. However, something the size of a mobile phone clipped on the dashboard (or kettle-sized under the seats) wafting Tea Tree Oil and Ylang Ylang into the car is unlikely (as in ‘it can’t’) to be capable of doing so. And it doesn’t matter what they put in it – essential oils, alcohol, bleach, Plutonium – it simply cannot work.

So thanks to the Vortex Factor, you’ll be breathing plenty of the ‘nasty’ air at the same time. Yes, such a gizmo may well ‘kill’ the spores if any pass through it – though given that it probably costs about as much as a handful of Happy Meals, that is far from guaranteed (as in ‘it isn’t’) – but I honestly can’t see them being fitted into hospitals and other settings anytime soon.


Question: Do Perspex dividing screens work?

Answer: If someone coughs directly at you, or tries to spit at you, yes. They stop them coughing or spitting directly in your face. However, due to the Fart Factor and the Vortex Factor, they cannot stop viral ‘spores’ circulating around the car. So no, they do not eliminate or ‘stop’ the virus.

Some insurance companies will not allow them, although some apparently do. The issue is maintaining control of the car. You see normal driving instructors – as opposed to the ones with enlarged frontal lobes who can apparently control the car, the pupil, and the overall lesson just by a few pulses of their lobes – occasionally need to take physical control away from the pupil to prevent harm coming to the vehicle and other road users. It is hard to do that when there’s a bloody big plastic screen in the way.

The solution to this problem for some seems to be that you simply have a big hole cut in the Perspex so that you can reach the steering wheel, thus allowing greater influence from the Fart Factor and the Vortex factor, and completely negating the original purpose.

Then there is the issue of ‘sanitizing’. Your fancy new screen has now given you a new surface area in the car of between 3-6 square metres. It has also made some of the existing surfaces (i.e. between the seats) even more difficult to access than usual. And it has introduced a lot of very fiddly nooks and crannies that were not there before that you will need a Q-tip or toothpick to get to.

Perspex (or acrylic) can be attacked by bleach, and the surface becomes ‘crazed’ (small cracks, which make it go cloudy). So your Domestos idea will need to be shelved, and you’ll be using a ton of alcohol sanitizer instead. Hand sanitizer contains other ingredients that prevent your hands drying out, and these may also attack Perspex. If nothing else, they’ll leave an oily film behind, leading to more cleaning.

Finally, and even if your insurance has cleared it, there is the ‘what if?’ question. As in, what happens if you do have an accident and your arm is through the hole at the time (which it likely will be under such circumstances)? The jolt of an impact alone is likely to snap it like a twig as your body weight is thrown around and your arm is levered against the Perspex. And if compression of the vehicle occurs, the Perspex will snap and turn into a giant pair of scissors and a variety of very sharp daggers – with your arm right in the middle of it all.

It’s a hell of a risk over something which doesn’t bloody work in the first place – unless you get a lot of people who spit at you, or you’ve allowed someone in the car even though they have a chronic cough.

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I received an email alert from DVSA today (as should most other instructors have done). Basically – and except for key workers – all tests are off until further notice. The essential part is reproduced here:

Driving instruction and driving tests

Other than emergency training and tests for critical workers, driving instruction and driving tests have not yet been able to restart because the risk of transmission of the virus in vehicles is higher.

In his statement on 10 June, the Prime Minister reiterated that the government will remain cautious and measure the effect of the changes it makes. The Prime Minister explained this means moving slower than we’d have liked in some areas.

Driving instruction and tests will only restart when the government is confident that the assessment of risk warrants it, subject to the 5 tests and further detailed scientific advice.

In the meantime, I want to re-emphasise that you should continue to limit driving lessons to critical workers who are preparing for an emergency driving test.

Once again, I would like to thank those of you who have been able to offer driving lessons to critical workers during these unprecedented times.

We will, of course, share more information with you as soon as it’s available – including the dates that driving instruction and driving tests can restart.

Any change to this is wholly dependent on what COVID-19 does next, and what the government decides as a result. That is unlikely to occur before July at the earliest, and I have texted all my pupils this afternoon indicating that we are unlikely to be doing lessons before August at the earliest.

One of my pupils has already received a cancellation email – and it is a cancellation, not a rescheduled date. That ought to be telling you something.

I have highlighted in bold the part DVSA emphasises in its email. For anyone too stupid to understand it, it says you should only be giving lessons to key workers who are preparing for a driving test.

I am awaiting the usual clowns arguing ‘yes, but it says should, not MUST’ (a reference to the terminology used in the Highway Code, where the difference is between advice or Law). I’d point out to these idiots that even going against advice can often lead you towards the hard legal aspects. Quite easily. In this case, by working when you shouldn’t you’re probably making the delay for everybody else longer, as you help COVID-19 spread.

Just remember. Apart from the money-grabbing aspect, there is absolutely no point teaching people at the moment if they cannot book a test. Try as you might to sound philanthropical about it, you’re doing it for you, not them. And it shines through like a beacon. Even if you do go ahead and work – and it cracks me up to see all these people who’ve been saying we can, and they’re going to start again ‘on Monday’ every week without fail (but haven’t) – what will you do once your pupils reach test standard? It’s likely there’ll be no tests until September – maybe longer if the shit hits the fan again, which you working is likely to help happen – and that’s three months away. By then you’ll possibly have blown your chances with SEISS (Part 2) and run out of people to teach. And that’s even assuming you can run a full diary right now (with most pupils not being as clueless as you and staying safe), and having to sanitise the car with a gallon of sanitizer every hour.

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COVID School of MotoringThey get, worse. They really do. Why do people who are usually unable to even do their own accounts insist on reading into things, and then create concerns among others?

A few weeks ago, it was announced that the SEISS scheme would be paid for a 2nd and final time, and you’ll be able to apply in August. Bear in mind that SEISS is not something created specifically for driving instructors – it is for self-employed people. It may come as a surprise, but there are more self-employed people out there than there are driving instructors. A lot more.

The Government website states:

This scheme is being extended, and you’ll be able to claim a second and final grant in August 2020.

We will work out your eligibility the same way as the first grant. If you make a claim for the second grant you will have to confirm your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020.

This grant will be a taxable grant worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

You can claim for the second and final grant even if you did not make a claim for the first grant.

It is the part about ‘on or after 14 July’ which has steamed up a few pairs of bifocals. Apparently, if you twist it around enough, you can convince yourself that they aren’t paying you for June.

Look, it’s really simple. In August you will be able to claim 70% of your average monthly business profit (not 80%, like last time), for a further three months of missed work. It’s up to you whether you include June in that, but it’s still three months – it says so in black and white.

The part about having to confirm your business is affected is fairly obvious – because of the aforementioned belief that SEISS is only for instructors. That condition was in there from the moment they announced it on 31 May, and is more relevant to the vast majority of self-employed people who could be working fairly normally by that time.

If you’re one of those instructors who has been itching to get back – and even if you’re one of the ones who has spent the time since March spamming every message board going telling people ‘technically, we can work’, even though you haven’t – if you are working before 14 July then it’s your problem if HMRC decides you are not affected and therefore not eligible. Just as it would be for me.

The problem here is that it is obvious to anyone with any sense that driving instructors should not be working right now. Even if you manage to cram all the good things you’ve read into a toothpaste tube and squeeze them out into a convoluted sentence that leads you to conclude you technically can work, you shouldn’t be. Even if you dunk your car in a bath of sanitizer between lessons you shouldn’t be. And even if you conduct lessons wearing a deep-sea diving suit you shouldn’t be. Because the virus is still there, at quite a high level, and you will be shut in a tin box with strangers less than half a metre away from you for hours at a time. The only thing you’re thinking of is money – which explains why some people are prepared both to go back to work as soon as they can and try to claim SEISS on top.

I know full well I will not be working on 14 July. Even if I technically can.

They’re going to take it off you again

No. They. Aren’t.

Jesus, how thick do you need to be? If you were eligible in the first place – by not working at all, and not getting a mountain of income from stocks and shares, or a pension – the first SEISS is yours, as long as you didn’t lie to them. If you did lie, it serves you right if you have to pay it back.

The criterion was that if more than 50% of your income over the last three years was from self-employment, you were eligible for the SEISS. That’s how it was for me – initially, 100% of my income was from self-employment over the last three years, and half way through it switched to 70% self-employment and 30% private pension. My PAYE account, along with my self-assessment, shows HMRC clearly what my income was. I had purposely dialled back on work because of my pension – with hindsight, and for purely financial reasons, I wish I hadn’t. But that’s irrelevant. Even if I’d always had that pension, I’d still have been eligible.

In August, and unless I am am working normally, I will be eligible again. I may have to prove that, but it would be no issue at all doing so.

The only way you’d need to pay anything back is if it turned out you’d been working normally throughout the period. If they caught up with you on that, it’s up to you to sort it out. You shouldn’t have been working, and if you were and still claimed, you only have yourself to blame.

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Antique slide-tile gameDoes anyone remember that toy you used to get in Lucky Bags? It was a small plastic plate with 15 sliding tiles in it. The Sixteenth position was empty, and the idea was to slide the other tiles into the space and eventually end up with all of them in numerical order.

I wonder if anyone would be prepared to manufacture the one I came up with, above? From what I keep reading, I think a lot of instructors would find it useful for running their lives right now.

It’s easier than the old version. They’re not supposed to go in any order, or anything. You just move them around randomly for a bit then ask a question about the one in the top left-hand corner.

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Virus imageI’m still amazed by the number of people who are prepared to go out and behave like nothing is wrong now that lockdown rules have been eased.

These people are simply too thick to realise that the virus is still out there. I was looking for a simulation of the situation we’re in and came across this little tool. It’s COVID-19 simulator – not a fancy or professional tool, but a basic example of the exact situation we are in right now.

Basically, the red dot is someone with the virus. The blue dots are uninfected people. When you click the ‘play’ button, the dots start moving randomly, and each time one of the blue dots touches the red dot, that one also turns red. Watch how quickly the whole population becomes infected. Forget the green ‘recovered’ people later, because right now no one know if or for how long those people remain immune, or if they can still transmit the virus (which they can if they are contaminated, even if they’re not infected).

That is what anyone who is desperate to start teaching again (or queue for 5 hours outside IKEA) is both exposing themselves to, and then exposing the rest of us to.

Obviously, if none of the blue dots ever come into contact with the red dot, then there is no spread.

Just consider that in the real world that is the UK right now, there were another 1,570 confirmed cases today – red dots – some of whom will likely have been on beaches and pushing past people in supermarkets at the weekend. The UK has stopped publishing the number of active cases, but it is likely to be somewhere close to 250,000. That’s a quarter of a million red dots, and many of those will also have been in contact with at least some blue dots before they came down with it. And with every man and his dog claiming that they’ve also had it in order to go back to work, how many blue dots will they have been in contact with?

Quite simply, until the number of red dots is so small that your chances of coming into contact with one is unlikely – or until there’s a vaccine – going back to work is fraught with danger.

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Image of virusIt has been announced that the SEISS will be paid again in August. This time, it will be 70% instead of 80% of the average income over the last three years. For me, that should be around £3,000.

As I have said before – and if you are eligible – it is far better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Note that the article says applications will ‘open in August’. Logically, this means we’re going to have to put up with almost three months of people asking when they can claim, and why it hasn’t been paid yet, just like last time – even though HMRC had made it crystal clear numerous times. Oh, and those who won’t have heard about it, and still won’t have even at the end of July, who will then start blaming HMRC. Come on, people. We have something called ‘the internet’ these days – they don’t use messenger pigeons anymore!

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Ethanol - molecular modelAs I mentioned some weeks ago – Jeezus, it was the day before we stopped work – it is easy to make your own hand sanitizer.

The best kind contains alcohol, and it has to be at least 60% alcohol to be classed as effectively anti-bacterial. So any holistic fruit extracts people are using are both not as good (if at all), and not affected by what I’m going to say next.

In keeping with the usual social media ethic, a lot of slightly wrong, wholly fake, and completely true information is being posted on virtually every topic imaginable, and many people are unable to decide which is which. The latest one concerns hand sanitizer being kept in the car in hot weather, and the circulation of photoshopped images more or less showing the craters left in roads after a bottle of it spontaneously ignites.

The images are almost certainly faked, but there is a risk with storing any flammable liquid in the car during hot weather, and I’ve mentioned that before in my article on how to make your own screenwash concentrate. The risk is proportional to how much of it you’re storing and the temperature it gets up to.

Alcohol-based sanitizer typically contains 70% ethanol. Pure ethanol has a flash point of 13°C, which means that at that temperature or above, a combustible vapour exists above it which would be ignited in the presence of any spark or flame. In an enclosed space, it would be explosive. A 70% solution of ethanol in water is slightly less dangerous, having a flash point of 21°C. In sunny weather, the inside of a car can easily exceed 30°C – especially if it is parked on a driveway with the windows closed. However, the autoignition temperature (where it just catches fire anyway), even of pure ethanol, is close to 400°C. You’re not going to get craters in the road driving on this planet!

It is therefore a scientific fact that any alcohol in the car will evaporate, and the vapour will be in an enclosed space. Depending on how much alcohol you had in there to start with, any spark – such as static from touching the car chassis (we’ve all felt that), or smoking – could ignite it.

Fair enough, a small 20ml bottle wouldn’t produce much vapour, so the chances of any ignition at all even with a blowtorch would be almost non-existent. But a 500ml one – especially if you were also carrying spare bottles of it – definitely could. As I said in that article about screenwash, my advice would be never to carry neat or nearly-neat alcohol (or any other flammable liquid) in the car when it’s hot, and only a minimal amount at other times, since if there was a spill in a crash it could easily lead to a fire.

In the case of sanitizer, it is not neat alcohol, but it is a high concentration of it nonetheless. It would be safest not to leave it in the car – keep it in your bag, and carry it with you when you park up. Keep it out of the sun, and preferably in the boot (though I can think of reasons why that might not be the perfect place for it, either).

Oh, and if the alcohol evaporates, it means the sanitizer isn’t 70% anymore, so it will stop being effective for its intended purpose.

And one more thing. If your sanitizer contains isopropyl alcohol instead of ethanol, it is still potentially flammable.

The bottom line is that there is a small risk. Be careful.

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