We’ve talked before about germs inside your car, but there’s a new study which goes into more detail about your bacteria bomb on wheels. We found this report on Reuters. First, let’s assume you’re the tidy type, who never brings food or trash into your car. Think you’re off the hook with germs? Nope. Microbiologists at Aston University in Birmingham, England, found that your gear shift is the #1 spot for germs. Researchers found an average of 356 germs per square centimeter on the gear shift – which is 25% more germs than any other spot in your car. That makes sense: Since the shift is always being touched – no matter who’s in the car.

However, surveys show that one in four people eat in the car once a week. One seemingly harmless burrito is all it takes to spread those germs from the gear shift onto your greasy fingers – then onto your food, the dashboard, your steering wheel, the turn signal, and finally into your mouth! If you’re one of the 16% of people who admit spilling food in the car, you’ve now got bacteria bursting all over the floors and seats. Is any of this enough to make you sick?

Anthony Hilton, the director of Biology and Biomedical Science at Aston University, says most of the bacteria found in a car isn’t enough to cause serious health problems, but that’s assuming you drive alone. If you frequently drive with pets or children, your risk skyrockets. Why? The Aston University study found traces of fecal matter from pets and dirty diapers tracked all over the typical family car – including the trunk, where most families store their groceries! If you drive with trash on the floor – as HALF of all drivers do – the news gets worse. Not only do you have bacteria growing on the floor, you have fungi growing in your ventilation system, and that fungi gets circulated around the cabin whenever you turn on the air conditioner or the heater. Add everything up, and here’s what the researchers at Aston University concluded: People typically spend three full years of their lives stuck behind the wheel of a car. In that time, they breathe more sickness causing germs in a car than they’d ever find at home on a toilet seat!