Washington drivers who earn a household income of more than $75,000 are more likely than their counterparts to speed and talk on a cell phone, according to data from a poll conducted by PEMCO Insurance Northwest.
“The poll data indicates that there is a correlation between income and driving behavior,” said PEMCO spokesman Jon Osterberg. “Wealthy drivers are taking more safety risks when driving compared to their counterparts.”
The poll results revealed that drivers with higher incomes say not only do they speed, but they also think talking on a cell phone while driving should be legal regardless of whether or not a hands-free device is used.
Earlier this year, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed a law that makes it illegal, as a secondary offense, for Washington drivers to talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device. The law will go into effect in 2008. Some proponents say the law does not go far enough to protect drivers.
The good news, however, is that drivers reported an eight percent decrease in the frequency with which they speed since 2005. The poll asked drivers how often they find themselves driving faster than the posted speed limit. In 2005, 20 percent of drivers reported speeding “often” compared to only 12 percent in 2007.
“While some drivers go faster than others, the general consensus was that people say they’re less likely to speed compared to our results from 2005,” Osterberg said.
Poll data revealed drivers who are more likely than their counterparts to speed are male, under 55 years old, have at least one child at home, and earn at least $75,000 in household income.
Data from the poll also showed drivers least likely to speed are females over the age of 55 who have no children and earn a household income of under $75,000.
“Interestingly, single drivers without children are least likely to speed,” Osterberg said. “You might expect that drivers with children would take it easy on the roads and obey the speed limit, helping to ensure they’ll be around to raise their kids.”
Similar to the 2005 data, this year’s poll revealed that about half of Washington drivers admitted to speeding. Of those who break the law, about three-quarters said they do so to keep up with the flow of traffic.
“We’ve seen changes in Washington state in the past two years that might contribute to drivers slowing down,” Osterberg said. “Higher gas prices, growing roadway congestion, or increased drivers education and enforcement programs could all play a role.”
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the faster one drives, the more fuel is used. To reach optimal fuel efficiency, drivers must maintain a speed of 55 miles per hour. Once acceleration exceeds 55 mph, fuel efficiency diminishes.
A growing population in and around Washington’s urban areas means more cars and more drivers on the road. Based on increased traffic congestion, and coupled with high gas prices, drivers may be opting to — or forced to — slow down.
“Opportunity breeds temptation, and if drivers don’t have either, they simply can’t speed,” Osterberg noted.
Since 2005, Washington has launched new initiatives to get drivers to slow down. In 2005, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission started a pilot program called Ticketing Aggressive Cars and Trucks (TACT), which aims to increase awareness and reduce collisions between commuter cars and large commercial vehicles.
According to 2006 data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, speeding violations were reduced significantly at target intervention sites, between 23 percent and 46 percent.
To view the survey results, visit www.pemco.com/.
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