PEMCO Poll Says Small Number of Drivers Kick It Into High Gear

March 23, 2004

According to a PEMCO Insurance survey, the person passing you on the highway well above the speed limit is more likely to have an advanced education and earn a higher income than those traveling at safer speeds.

The findings are part of a poll of 600 Washington State residents that compared their average freeway or highway speed to the speed limit. The poll found that only 11 percent of Washingtonians typically travel at dangerous speeds well above the speed limit.

“A few risky drivers make our roads more dangerous for everyone,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO Insurance spokesperson. “Excessive speeding causes more frequent accidents, more deadly accidents, and it hurts innocent victims.”

PEMCO also divided the results by age, gender, income level, family status and other classifications to look for trends.

Income, education increase potential for speeding
Besides finding younger and single drivers more likely to speed, the poll also reportedly found that those with the most income and education were more likely to speed.

Drivers making more than $75,000 a year were more than twice as likely to drive 6-10 mph above the speed limit, compared to those making less than $75,000 a year. The poll showed that 18 percent of drivers with higher incomes averaged 6-10 mph above the speed limit, compared with 7 percent for drivers earning less than $75,000 per year.

Drivers with a college degree also tended to drive faster. The poll showed that 11 percent of drivers with college degrees drove 6-10 mph above the speed limit, compared with 6 percent for drivers with no college education.

“The poll suggests that higher-income, higher-educated people tend to speed more,” continued Osterberg. “In reality, speeding only gains those drivers a small amount of time, and it’s offset by increased risk of accidents, not to mention added stress and worry.”

While showing that certain types of people are more likely to speed, the poll results also revealed dangerous speeders across all categories. PEMCO urged anyone who routinely drives above the speed limit to slow down for safety’s sake – not just their own safety, but for all those responsible drivers they share the road with.

Speed compresses dangers
The faster a vehicle travels, the less likely a driver will notice a
hazard in time to avoid it. Speeders require more distance to stop, and it’s less likely their seatbelts, airbags and other safety features will prevent injury.

High-speed crashes unleash severe forces on vehicles and passengers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), crash severity increases disproportionately with vehicle speed. A frontal impact at 35 mph, for example, is one-third more violent than one at 30 mph.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes, and speeding was a contributing factor in 30 percent of all fatal crashes nationally in 2001.

“Sometimes the difference between surviving a crash and dying can be 5 mph,” said Osterberg.

Speeding perceived as ‘Harmless’
Unlike drunk driving or not wearing your seatbelt, most drivers reportedly think that speeding a little is acceptable, believing that the chance of getting a ticket, getting in a crash or injuring someone is relatively low. But compared with the risk of accidents and tickets when traveling the speed limit, those chances are sky high for speeders.

“If you buckle your seatbelt to keep you safe in an accident, why not travel at the speed limit to avoid that accident?” asked Osterberg.

Speed, not speed differences
Some drivers think that traveling significantly slower than the traffic
flow causes more accidents than speeding, but studies show that speeding in general causes significantly more accidents.

According to the IIHS, nearly half of the crashes resulting in occupant deaths are single-vehicle impacts in which the comparative speeds of the vehicles play no role, or a very minor one. The IIHS also advises that the risk of death and severe injury is a direct, exponential result of speed, not speed differences. “Some drivers use the excuse of needing to ‘go with the
flow’ of traffic to justify speeding,” remarked Osterberg. “If drivers nearby are speeding, it’s safer to follow the speed limit and let them pass.”

About the poll
PEMCO Insurance ( commissioned the independent, statewide phone survey that asked Washington drivers about the average speed they drive on the freeway or highway.

Market Trends Inc. of Seattle conducted the opinion monitor consisting of 600 interviews with Washington state residents. All interviews were conducted under the direction of Market Trends’ telephone interviewing facilities in Seattle. Respondents were selected at random, using the random digit dialing method, and ZIP code quotas represented the respective Washington county populations.

The sample size of 600 respondents yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4 percent.

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