Wednesday, February 8, 2006
7 News Features: Steering Clear
Between commuting to work and school and soccer practice, many of us feel like we live in our cars. But even if you get your vehicle washed every week, you could be overlooking a dangerous source of bacteria every time you go for a ride. Seven's Carmel Cafeiro is live now - with her special assignment report - Steering Clear.
WSVN--Most of us don't give much thought to just how clean or dirty our car may be except on the outside.
But what we discovered could change your mind about that.
It's just a part of living in South Florida. Traffic and traffic lights and traffic detours creating even more traffic.
Today, the city of Miami has the 6th highest commuting time of anywhere in the United States.
"I drive 37,000 miles a year."
"I travel all the way from Palm Beach all the way to Kendall."
"I'm in the car 3- 3 1/2 hours a day."
But with all the time we spend in the car, most of us don't realize one of the greatest hazards could be right before our eyes.
According to a recent study, the inside of a car may have more bacteria --- than a toilet.
And a major germ zone - the steering wheel.
There's even a name for it ---"sick car syndrome".
Just consider how many times you touch the steering wheel then handle your food... Or bite your nails... Or even worse grab your baby's toy which will then go into its mouth.
If your vehicle's dirty enough, you could be making yourself or somebody else sick and not even know about it.
Victor Cole: "This car gets washed once a week and inside the interior probably every other week."
To test how dirty South Florida cars are, we asked drivers like Victor Cole if we could swab their steering wheel for bacteria.
Victor Cole: "She's not allowed to eat in the car."
Victor's girlfriend may not be allowed to eat inside the car, but what he doesn't know is even the best wash won't wipe away all the germs.
Next up - we tested Sylvie litt's steering wheel.
She enjoys working out 5 days a week... But she never washes her hands between the machines and her car.
Sylvie Litt: "I just come straight out from the gym and go home to take a shower."
And finally, Leslie McConanchie manages to combine the life of a working mom and a soccer mom.
Leslie McConachie: "I eat in my car. Apply makeup in my car. My side pocket of my car is my garbage can."
She spends so much time in the car she predicts her wheel will be the "grungiest" of the group.
Dr. Peter Kmieck: "It's pretty dramatic when you see the levels that are present."
We then asked Dr. Pete Kmeick at Kappa Labs to study our samples.
The biggest surprise - which one of our road warriors had the dirtiest steering wheel.
It was Mr. Clean - Victor Cole.
Victor Cole: "I was the worst? Really? That's a complete surprise."
The lab found bacteria in Victor's car that could cause everything from a cold to food poisoning.
Dr. Kmeick's guess - whatever victor picked up from rest stops or gas stations ended up on his steering wheel.
Dr. Peter Kmieck: "There was heat from the hands, there was moisture from the palms and the conditions were right- that for several hours the bacteria was able to grow."
The next dirtiest wheel ....belonged to our gym-girl Sylvie Litt.
Sylvie Litt: "I think it could be caused from the gym, all the sweat and people running around."
Dr. Peter Kmieck: "The conditions are favorable for passing as well as growing bacteria. The type of bacteria associated with sanitation."
But the biggest surprise - was the condtion of our working mom's vehicle.
Despite everything that goes on in her car - her steering wheel was the cleanest of them all.
Leslie McConachie: "I'm shocked! I'm good about cleaning my hands."
And if you think we're way out there talking about dirty steering wheels - consider this: Toyota is testing a car that features an antibacterial steering wheel - really.
Carmel Cafiero: "So - what to do? You can clean your steering wheel with rubbing alcohol. And keep in mind your mother's advice - wash your hands. Reporting live - Carmel Cafiero 7 News."
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