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Northwest drivers embrace honking more today than they did five years ago

September 20, 2021 by PEMCO Insurance

​Don't be alarmed if you hear a honk from a fellow driver while getting from point A to point B. According to a new poll from PEMCO Mutual Insurance, Northwest drivers are increasingly inclined to make some noise on the road, compared to more reserved attitudes towards honking from just five years ago. Today, nearly two-thirds of drivers (65%) think it's at least somewhat appropriate to honk at fellow motorists. In 2017, just 49% of drivers said the same.

The latest PEMCO poll found that drivers in both the Seattle and Portland metro areas have become significantly more willing to honk their horns when behind the wheel. Today, 68% of Seattle drivers say it's at least somewhat appropriate to honk, whereas about half (46%) said the same in 2017. In the Portland metro area, the same findings ring true, as 61% say it's appropriate to honk at others, while only 52% said the same in 2017.

"Whether it's increased frustration from traffic, more residents moving here from honk-prone regions or just a natural shift in how we behave behind the wheel, we were surprised to see such a significant jump in how Northwest drivers feel about horn honking," said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. "In my personal experience, as a native East Coaster, I've had to learn to lay off the horn since becoming a Pacific Northwest resident. But perhaps a more East Coast vibe is catching on here as we welcome more transplants to the area." 

Interestingly, drivers don't seem to mind the nudge from fellow motorists either. In fact, when honked at, about half (48%) claim they respond with a wave or gesture of thanks. On the flip side, only 26% of drivers admit that being honked at makes them mad, whether they show their frustration or keep it to themselves.

But the poll also finds that drivers' tolerance for honking depends on their age, with younger drivers finding the occasional beep more acceptable than their older counterparts. In Seattle, about three-quarters (72%) of those under 55 say it's sometimes appropriate to honk at others in comparison to about half (52%) of those 55 years and older. In Portland, this trend continues, as 67% of those under 55 say it's at least somewhat okay to honk at others while only 44% of those older than 55 say the same.

Regardless of age, the majority of drivers (54%) think that as a region, Pacific Northwesterners honk their horns just the right amount – not too little or too much – but about three-quarters (72%) agree that we're still behind other regions when it comes to how often we honk our horns.

The poll also asked when it's an appropriate time to use your horn—after all, it's there for a reason. Keeping each other safe was the resounding response. Northwest residents cite the most appropriate reason to beep your horn as warning someone else that they are in danger. In addition, 55% of respondents said it was appropriate to honk at another driver who isn't paying attention to keep fellow drivers safe, whether the distracted driver is eating, on their phone or daydreaming.

"Though it can be a source of frustration for many, utilizing your car's horn appropriately can save you or someone else on the road from an accident," Wing shared.

When it comes to other ways drivers interact on the road, more than half of Northwest drivers also say that when another driver lets them go first or lets them merge into their lane, they always thank them with a wave. In Seattle, 61% say they always wave to acknowledge others, and 65% in Portland said the same.

Interestingly, though drivers say they always wave to others, less than one-sixth of drivers say others return the nicety. In fact, only 14% in Seattle and 12% in Portland say that fellow drivers always acknowledge their kind gestures on the road with a courtesy wave.

For a complete summary of PEMCO's proprietary poll results visit, where you'll find responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in August 2021.


About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Mutual Insurance commissioned this independent survey, conducted by FBK Research of Seattle, that asked Washington and Oregon residents questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 420 respondents in the Seattle Metro (King, Snohomish, Pierce Counties) region and 418 respondents in the Portland Metro (Multnomah, Marion, Clackamas, Washington Counties) region yields an accuracy of +/- 5.0% respectively at the 95% confidence level. In other words, if this study were conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than the associated error range. 

About PEMCO Mutual Insurance

PEMCO Mutual Insurance is the Defender of Your Northwest, providing auto, home, renters and boat coverage. We are consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee expertise and social impact. Our Mutual Good programs raise the achievement levels for youth in education; build stronger, greener environments; and increase safety at home, on the road and at play. Our mission: Free our communities to worry less and live more. 

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