Trips to the gas station are inevitable as many essential businesses remain in operation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite social distancing efforts, experts say the virus can live for hours or even days on hard surfaces, such as gas pumps and keypads
Auto experts with Consumer Reports suggest several ways to approach this task:
• Consider carrying some disposable nitrile or latex gloves in your car to use when gripping the pump handle. Short of that, you can try to use paper towels that are sometimes available at the pump or have some with you to cover your hands when you grip the handle.
• Do the same to isolate yourself from the keypad when entering payment information.
• Invert the gloves and throw them away, and also any paper towels you might have used. Use hand sanitizer to make sure your hands are clean after you’re done and before you get back into your car.
• Cleaning your hands after you’re done seems like the quickest, easiest precaution. But some drivers might want to have disinfectant wipes handy for wiping down the gas pump handle and the payment keypad before pumping.
“This process ensures that I’m not inadvertently transferring the virus from a high-touch surface like a gas pump to my vehicle’s door handle, and from there into the interior,” said Gabriel Shenhar, associate director of CR’s auto test program.
Drivers are seeing some relief at the pump, however, as gas prices continue to drop.
The statewide gas price average in Texas is $1.91 for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel, according to the AAA Texas Weekend Gas Watch.
Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed in Texas, drivers in Midland are paying the most on average at $2.11 while drivers in Sherman/Denison are paying the least at $1.71 per gallon.
In Cleburne, gas prices were as low as $1.75 on Monday.
“As demand falls for oil and gasoline, prices are plummeting at the pumps,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “Concerns about the impact on gasoline demand from coronavirus, and disagreements regarding oil production between OPEC and non-OPEC countries, have been major factors which have pushed prices down.”
Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy, said the decline in gas prices is one of the most notable declines seen in history, so far rivaling the decline seen during the Great Recession.
“Gas prices have spent virtually all of March marching lower, with the drop continuing as the coronavirus destroys oil demand globally, leading to the lowest oil prices we’ve seen in 18 years, paving the way for still an additional 35-75 cent per gallon drop at most stations in the weeks ahead,” DeHaan said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collapse in prices, even including the Great Recession.
“What we’re witnessing is easily going to go down as the great collapse in oil demand, and for motorists hurrying to fill up today, they’re wasting their money as prices will continue to drop in the days ahead.
“Gas stations are passing along the drop several weeks behind, and there’s plenty more room for prices to drop, putting 99 cents per gallon prices as a strong possibility for perhaps many more stations than we previously anticipated. This is truly an unprecedented turn of events.”