Tue. Sep 26th, 2023

Florida workers are facing plenty of issues in the current pandemic climate, and while some have started to work remotely, many still have to make long commutes to get to work.

Even before COVID-19 hit the United States, there were many issues facing Florida drivers, including issues with travel safety, insurance, and wellness. COVID has only made these existing problems worse across The Panhandle State. 

We will go over some of the issues facing Florida drivers and what can be done about them. From COVID-19 safety on the road to driving without insurance in Florida, here are some of the issues facing Florida workers with long pandemic commutes.

The Problems With Transportation

One of the most dangerous things about commutes has to do with public transportation, which often crams people together in small spaces with little airflow and also can be extremely unsanitary. Many workers have dropped using public transportation, but this isn’t an option for everyone.

In addition, carpooling can also be dangerous unless all participants are quarantining in the same ways.

Driving has its own issues, including increased pollution and cost. Fortunately, many workers have been able to shift to remote work, but this hasn’t been an option for everyone. Some companies have allowed their employees to come back in small numbers, while others are coming up with creative ways to improve commuting safety.

There are a lot of things that can improve commutes. For example, Sarasota County has been recognized nationally as one of the best places to commute to work due to incentives such as bicycle repair stations, carpool incentives, premier parking spaces, free electric vehicle charging stations, and free bus rides.

Some companies offer incentives for clean commuting (such as using bikes) or provide ways to join “closed-network” employee carpools. Corporate shuttles and parking stipends can also help.

What’s the importance of insurance?

As more and more workers have had to deal with layoffs and work shuffles, some have had to drop excess costs and bills. Those who switch to remote work or no longer have the money for insurance may consider dropping it, but this can be costly and dangerous for both commuting and non-commuting workers.

For starters, not having insurance, even for a short while, is a red flag for future insurance underwriters. Gaps in coverage may make it harder for you to get coverage later. Also, even if you are not driving much, driving your car at all without insurance is illegal. 

In Florida, everyone who owns a vehicle is required to have a minimum insurance policy that gives coverage for $10,000 for property damage and $10,000 for personal injury protection. 

This is because Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state. In addition, this coverage has to be in place before you even get your vehicle registration and tags. 

If you do end up dropping your insurance for any reason, you are required by Florida law to surrender your plates. You have to turn them in before your insurance expires. Also, the penalties for driving without insurance will in no time overtake the costs you defray by canceling it.

In the end, dropping insurance will not save you money, and will only make commuting harder if you have to during a pandemic.

Driving in Rough Weather for Work

Another issue that can face those with long commute times is the weather. Safe driving during a storm can be tricky, especially during hurricane season.

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Department (FLHSMV) advises motorists to register their emergency contact information with their online system so that law enforcement can contact their loved ones if they are ever in an accident.

Commuters should make sure their vehicles are properly maintained and road-ready. The pandemic is no excuse to put off car repairs and oil checks. Be sure to keep up to date with best driving practices, evacuation routes, and road closures as well.

If the weather turns sour, commuters may struggle between the need to get to work on time and the need to stay safe. Remember that your life is more important than your job.

Slow down, and never drive through flooded areas, even if you don’t think the water is very high. Six inches is often all it takes to lift a car off the ground.

Drivers should be careful in windy conditions, especially if they drive a large bus or truck as a part of their job. Be careful if you carry cargo or are driving near someone else who is.

Wide-open spaces like bridges and overpasses often get the strongest winds. Give yourself and others extra space to maneuver.

Turn your headlights on whenever your wipers are on. Florida law requires drivers to turn on headlights if they have turned on their wipers. 

Do not use hazard lights while driving. Florida law prohibits using them while driving; they are only to be used if your vehicle is stopped or disabled on the side of the road.

Are cars sanitary and safe from COVID-19?

Driving in a car is safer than riding in a bus or using mass transit where COVID-19 is concerned. However, cars often are enclosed, and the interiors are often not cleaned for long periods of time. This means that potential infecting agents can linger on surfaces.

To keep yourself safe, make sure to prepare in advance every time you drive. Make sure everything you need to take to work, such as uniforms, papers, electronics, and tools, are safely packed and sanitized. Make sure all surfaces are cleaned regularly, and pack your own hand sanitizer and disinfectant.

Also, make sure you have your masks. Have a few extras in your car — preferably in a plastic bag to keep them clean.

If you have to stop for gas, consider using disposable gloves before and after pumping instead of worrying about wiping down the surface. Using cards instead of cash to make payments reduces one-on-one interactions and the potential for shared infections.

Try to go to the restroom before you leave your home. Restroom breaks in the middle of a drive are complicated by COVID, as many public restrooms have been closed for sanitary reasons. 

Many fast-food restaurants no longer let the general public access the restrooms, so travelers have to rely on gas station restrooms instead. These are notoriously unsanitary.

If you do have to stop to answer nature’s call, make sure to wash your hands (perhaps bring along some hand sanitizer just in case the soap or water isn’t working) and wear a mask.

In the end, there are a lot of potential problems facing Florida workers who have long commutes. Employers should think about how they can make commuting safer and more sanitary for their workers, whether that involves ride-sharing programs, better sanitation practices, or leniency during rough weather.












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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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