Photo (cc) by Leonid Mamchenkov
Here’s something to think about the next time you hail a taxi, ride-share or rental: lots and lots of bacteria.
For the analysis, the insurance information website swabbed three random taxis, three random ride-share vehicles and three random rental cars and sent the samples off to a lab.
Ride-share vehicles in the very small sample were the most germ-ridden:
- Ride-share vehicles contained an average of 6.05 million colony-forming units (CFUs), which are viable bacteria cells, per square inch.
- Rental cars contained an average of 2 million CFUs.
- Taxis contained an average of 27,593 CFUs.
To give you an idea of how those numbers compare, NetQuote reports that toothbrush holders contain about 2.1 million CFUs per square inch and toilet seats contain about 172 CFUs.
In both the ride-share vehicles and the taxis, the seat belt, door handle and window buttons were swabbed.
In the ride-shares, the window buttons were by far the most germ-ridden, with an average of about 5 million CFUs per square inch.
In the taxis, the seat belts were by far the worst, with an average of 26,000 CFUs.
In the rental cars, the seat belt, steering wheel and shifter were swabbed. The steering wheel and shifter were by far the most germ-ridden, both with an average of about 1 million CFUs per square inch.
The specific types of bacteria found varied among the different types of vehicles as well as the different parts of the vehicles. They include:
- Gram-negative rod bacteria, which were found in all three vehicle types. Some 90 percent to 95 percent of bacteria in this category are harmful to humans, and many are resistant to antibiotics. Examples include E. coli and cholera.
- Gram-positive cocci, which were found in rentals and taxis. This type of bacteria can cause skin infections, pneumonia and septicemia (blood poisoning).
- Yeast, which was found in ride-shares and taxis. Yeast is a type of fungus that typically lives on skin and mucous membranes without causing infection.
NetQuote notes that not all germs are harmful, although their existence indicates the potential for problems, with higher bacteria levels meaning it’s more likely that harmful microorganisms are present.
You don’t have to give up on public transportation, though, to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful germs.
For example, wipe commonly touched areas of vehicles with soap-based wipes before touching them or avoid touching them. Also wash your hands immediately after using public transportation, and avoid touching your face until washing your hands.
For more tips, check out “3 Simple Rules to Avoid Getting Sick While Traveling.”
How do you feel about germs and public transportation? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.