Majority of Wash. Drivers Choose to Go With the Flow

June 7, 2005

While many Washington drivers admit to speeding, only a very small number say they speed to get where they’re going faster, according to PEMCO Insurance’s 2005 Northwest Insurance Poll.

PEMCO’s poll reveals that more than half of Washington drivers admit to speeding. Of those who break the law, nearly 9 out of 10 say they do so to keep up with the flow of traffic or because they don’t pay much attention to posted speed limits.

“Whether you’re speeding along with everyone else or speeding alone, the fact remains: speed kills,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO Insurance spokesperson. “More than 600 people died in traffic accidents last year in Washington, and one-third of those deaths were speed related.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, going even 5 mph over the speed limit can greatly increase a driver’s risk of serious injury or death in a crash, because crash severity increases disproportionately with vehicle speed. For example, a frontal impact at 35 mph is one-third more severe than one at 30 mph.

The poll results revealed that:

— 51 percent of drivers admit to speeding often or sometimes, and of those, most are likely to have a higher income, more education, be between the ages of 18-34, or have children under age 13.

— Two-thirds of drivers earning more than $75,000 a year claim to speed often or sometimes, compared to 55 percent of drivers who earn $35-$74,000 each year, and only 43 percent of those who make less than $35,000 each year.

— Drivers with a four-year degree are more likely to speed, as well. Almost one-quarter of college graduates speed often, compared to 18
percent of drivers with some four-year or technical college education, and only 16 percent of drivers without any college education.

“For some reason, these people don’t seem to connect speeding with increased danger,” Osterberg said. “Whether they think the odds of getting pulled over are low, or they don’t mind paying for tickets and higher insurance premiums, they need to realize that speeding is dangerous to themselves and other drivers.”

Parents of young children are also more likely to speed than drivers without children — 45 percent of drivers with children reported speeding often, while only 18 percent of drivers without children reported doing so.

Age also plays a factor in who is more likely to speed. Adults age 18-34 were twice as likely (70 percent) as drivers age 55 and older (36 percent) to speed often or sometimes, while 56 percent of those 35-54 reported doing so.

Slowing down not only saves lives, it saves drivers time, gas and unnecessary stress as well.

The Minnesota Safety Council performed an experiment in which two drivers traveled over the same 1,000-mile route in similar vehicles. The fast driver passed 2,000 cars, braked 1,339 times and covered the distance in 20 hours, 12 minutes. The slow driver flowed with traffic, passed only 13 cars and braked 652 times. It took him 20 hours, 43 minutes — just 31 minutes longer than the fast driver. The faster car used 10 gallons more gas, and the driver’s pulse rate rose because of the tension and the risks he had taken.

Maintaining safe, consistent speeds while driving will increase your gas mileage, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For example, driving 65 mph, rather than 55 mph, increases your fuel consumption by 20 percent. Driving 75 mph, rather than 65 mph, increases fuel consumption by another 25 percent.

PEMCO’s poll results also included the reasons why drivers speed: to pass other drivers, because they’re going down hills, driving powerful cars, and a belief that the speed limit is too low in many areas. One driver said he speeds because “it keeps me alert,” while another driver’s explanation was, “I’m forced to go fast due to the hectic schedule of my life. I don’t have a lot of time, so I need to drive faster than what the speed limit is.”

PEMCO suggests that drivers maintain a consistent speed while driving, and let others pass you if needed, rather than try to keep up with everyone else.

“Sometimes the difference between surviving a crash and dying can be 5 mph,” Osterberg said. “Some drivers literally compete for space on our roads. If people would simply slow down, and use the same common courtesy behind the wheel that we use when we’re out of our cars, fewer motorists would die.”

Anyone who wants to compare his or her answers to the official results of the PEMCO Northwest Insurance Poll can do so online by visiting

PEMCO Insurance commissioned the independent, statewide phone survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about speeding and other issues.

Informa Research Services Inc. of Seattle conducted the poll. The sample size, 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.

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit

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