As summer wanes in the Northwest, so do drivers’ tempers

PEMCO Polite Driving Index shows improvement despite a rise in traffic congestion



​​​​SEATTLE – As summer fades in the Northwest, the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance shows that drivers’ tempers are waning, as well.  The Seattle-based insurer reports that drivers see fewer aggressive behaviors from fellow motorists, and that the drivers themselves say they drive less aggressively now than they have in years past. 
In fact, six out of 10 drivers in Washington and Oregon say they didn’t exhibit a single aggressive behavior over the span of a month, according to the poll. 
PEMCO measures how drivers in Washington and Oregon view both the aggressiveness and politeness of their own driving behavior and that of other drivers, and tracks the data over time with the PEMCO Polite Driving Index. 
The latest results show that overall Washington driver aggression is down 6 points from 139 to 133 on the 100-point polite-driving index, while Oregon politeness has remained relatively steady around 146 for the past year. On the Index, a higher score indicates more polite behavior, while lower scores represent more aggression. 
“Not only are drivers saying their actions are slightly more considerate on the roads than they were before, but they’re also seeing less aggression among other drivers in the Northwest,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “That’s encouraging, especially as traffic congestion continues to rise around the Northwest.”
According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, traffic congestion has increased since 2009 as the economy improves and more people return to work. In fact, WSDOT’s 2012 Congestion Report reveals that Washington drivers spent 16 percent more time in traffic in 2011 than they did in 2009. 
PEMCO’s Index tracks how frequently drivers say they demonstrate and observe polite driving such as courteous gestures, proper signaling, and yielding the right-of-way, as well as how often they witness and exhibit aggressive driving, such as speeding and tailgating.   
Despite traffic considerations, drivers across a range of demographics view their own driving as significantly more polite than other drivers. Motorists in Washington and Oregon agree that they demonstrate polite driving behavior about a third more often than “the other guy” – an average of about nine self-reported polite gestures per month compared to about six from other drivers. 
According to the poll, male drivers in Portland have the most faith in other drivers’ politeness.  They’re significantly more likely than their female counterparts to say they witness more frequent polite driving behaviors, and say they themselves are more polite, too.  Men’s overall perspective in Portland represents 156 points on the polite driving index, while women come in 17 points lower at 139.
To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to take an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2012.
About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 629 respondents in Washington and 400 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.0 percent and +/- 5.0 percent respectively 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 by community agents throughout the region and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit