In snow and ice, Northwest drivers feel pressured to commute to work​



​​SEATTLE – As winter approaches, bringing the possibility of snow for cities across the Northwest, a new poll from PEMCO Insurance reveals that Washington and Oregon residents who commute say they feel pressured by their employer to drive to work when it snows, but many residents admit to having reservations about their winter driving skills. The Seattle-based insurer found that nearly two out of three Northwesterners who commute feel at least some pressure to drive to work in snow or ice, but just one-quarter of drivers say they're very comfortable navigating in those conditions.

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, 60 percent of Northwest drivers who commute feel at least a little pressure from their employer to drive to work in snowy conditions, even if they'd prefer to stay at home. The poll finds that younger people and women in Washington tend to feel the most pressure to get to work: about one in four – 27 percent of those under 35, and 28 percent of Washington women who drive to work – say they feel very pressured by their boss to commute in snow and ice. 

Oregon drivers, on the other hand, are more relaxed. About one-third (37 percent) say they feel no pressure at all from their employer to get to work when they'd prefer to stay home on a snow day, compared to just 27 percent of Washington drivers who say the same.  

But across the Northwest, motorists are generally uneasy about driving in the snow. Almost two in five drivers (38 percent) say they feel uncomfortable driving in winter weather. One-third (36 percent) say they're just "somewhat" comfortable driving in snow, and only one-quarter (26 percent) say they're very comfortable navigating in slippery conditions.

"We all know the scenario: even though snow is uncommon west of the Cascades, drivers around here tend to venture out despite their inexperience or being underprepared, and chaos ensues," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. "What perplexes us is that people seem to acknowledge their discomfort, but drive in the snow anyway."

According to the poll, women are four times more likely than men to say they're very uncomfortable navigating in the snow (23 percent of women vs. 5 percent of men).  About one in five men (18 percent) admit to being at least somewhat uncomfortable, as well.

But, interestingly, the poll finds that winter weather doesn't deter them from hitting the road. Three-quarters (77 percent) of drivers who commute say they prefer to drive themselves to work in wintery conditions, which is close to the number (83 percent) who say they typically drive to work in general.

"Maybe that's because a majority of drivers here think they're just as skilled as other drivers," Osterberg said. "For better or worse, the poll found that 84 percent of Northwest drivers think they're at least as good as or better than the other guy on snowy roads."

Across the region, though, drivers west of the Cascades are significantly more likely than their eastern counterparts to say they're less skilled in winter conditions.  About twice as many west-side drivers admit feeling less skilled than most other drivers in the snow – 16 percent west of the mountains compared to just 7 percent east of the Cascades who feel less skilled than their fellow drivers.

And a disparity grows when comparing men and women, too. Twice as many men compared to women in the Northwest say they're more skillful drivers than others on snowy roads (60 percent of men vs. 29 percent of women). Nearly a quarter of women (23 percent) think they're actually less skilled than most other drivers on winter roads, compared to just 5 percent of men who say the same.

If you must venture out in snow or ice, PEMCO urges all drivers to keep these tips in mind:

    • Give yourself plenty of time and don't rush. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads, and slow speeds are the safest and most effective way to maintain control of your vehicle.
    • Know your brakes. Most vehicles today have antilock brakes, which require drivers to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
    • Be prepared. Keep extra blankets, water, flares and a first-aid kit in your vehicle at all times. 
    • Abandon your car safely. If you must abandon your car in the snow, pull as far off to the side as possible, set your emergency brake and turn on your flashers. Leave a note on the dash so others may contact you if needed, as well.
    • More winter driving tips can be found at  

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit, where the public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll and see how their own responses compare with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in October 2014.


About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey 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 J.D. Power has ranked PEMCO "Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the Northwest Region, Three Years in a Row." For J.D. Power award information, visit