Need for speed? Northwest drivers put the pedal to the metal



​​The latest poll from PEMCO Insurance finds a significant increase in speeders among Washington and Oregon drivers, up almost 15 percent from six years ago. While this region’s terrible traffic may keep drivers from accelerating, the poll finds that many Northwest drivers favor increasing interstate speed limits to keep pace with their lead feet. 

The PEMCO Poll reports that two out of three drivers (65 percent) admit to going over the posted speed limit at least sometimes. That’s up from 2011 PEMCO poll data that show just half of drivers (51 percent) said the same then. ​

But despite an increasing need for speed, drivers’ reason for speeding has remained the same. Of those who admit to speeding on at least rare occasions, a majority (72 percent) blame the fast flow of traffic – they’re just trying to keep up with other drivers. Another 21 percent say they find themselves speeding when they aren’t paying attention to the posted speed limit.

Perhaps drivers are hitting the gas because they think they won’t get caught. According to the poll, almost two-thirds of drivers believe that law enforcement will offer a “buffer” over the legal speed limit where a driver won’t get cited even if they’re seen speeding, within a certain range. 
The latest poll finds that 60 percent of Northwest drivers think the acceptable speeding buffer is at least five miles over the posted speed limit, whereas fewer – just 49 percent of drivers – thought the same in 2011.

“Although tolerance for speeding can vary among drivers, PEMCO urges all motorists to always abide by the posted speed limit to avoid getting a ticket – or worse – regardless of how fast other drivers are travelling,” said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. “Faster speed brings greater risks for everyone on the road.”

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), raising speed limits have had deadly consequences. An IIHS study found that speed limit increases caused 33,000 deaths in the U.S. over two decades. While higher speeds have led to more fatalities, IIHS also reports that maximum speed limits set by states have been on the rise since 1995.

In the Northwest, nearly two times as many drivers favor increasing the speed limit from 70 to 75 miles per hour on rural freeways and interstates, than to those who oppose faster speed limits (63 percent vs. 33 percent). 

“Raising the speed limit won’t necessarily align the law with actual driving behavior; it’s inevitable that some drivers will continue to exceed the posted speed limit even if it’s increased,” Wing added. “There are plenty of factors that contribute to accidents on the road, and while many of these are out of our control, the one thing we can control is our speed.”

For a complete summary of PEMCO’s poll results, visit, where you’ll find the responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in June 2016.


About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO 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, 600 respondents in Washington and 600 in Oregon, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent 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 Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, and umbrella insurance to Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold to consumers by the method they choose – phone, local community agents, or online. For more information, visit