SEATTLE – Are you better at navigating slick, snowy roads
than your fellow drivers? The latest poll from PEMCO Insurance affirms an
emerging trend: despite visible chaos on the streets when it snows, four out of
five Northwest drivers consider themselves on par with or more skilled at
navigating icy roads than their peers.
In time for December’s plunging temperatures and the
possibility of snow this winter, a recent poll by the Seattle-based insurer
asked Northwest drivers about their own skill and comfort in inclement
conditions, along with what they observe from other cars on the road.
Though it may come as a surprise – especially if you've
seen news footage following the season's first snowstorm showing cars slowly sliding
and piling up on city streets – the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll finds that
more than half of Northwest drivers (54 percent) in Washington and the
Portland, Ore., metropolitan area say they’re comfortable driving on snowy and
The poll also reveals that just 37 percent of Washington
drivers take the basic winter safety precaution of carrying chains in their
cars. In Portland, residents are more likely to carry chains as a precaution –
48 percent keep them in their vehicle in case of a winter emergency.
“Despite what we may see on the streets, drivers around
here definitely seem to have plenty of self-confidence – perhaps showing they
think their skills and comfort driving in snow keep them from needing tire
chains,” said PEMCO spokesperson, Jon Osterberg.
But whether drivers carry chains may not matter if the
owner doesn’t know how to put them on. About half of Northwest residents – 53
percent – never have installed tire chains on their vehicle.
“Drivers should practice putting on chains before
the snow falls,” said Osterberg. “Don’t simply toss new chains into the trunk
until they’re really needed. You’re better off practicing at home in daylight
than doing it with numb fingers on the side of the road with cars spinning
around you, perhaps after dark.”
The polls shows that while tire chains may not be a top
priority, many Northwest drivers do travel in winter with extra clothing,
blankets, water, or a first-aid kit. But less than one-third carry flares or
extra food, and just 20 percent keep a shovel in case of emergencies.
While many say they’re comfortable driving in snowy or
icy conditions, collision and accident data from the Washington State
Department of Transportation (WSDOT) show that driving in poor conditions, even
with chains on your tires, is far from safe. According to WSDOT, most accidents
occur in fall and winter.
stark differences in climate and topography between the east and west side of
the state may influence driver confidence. Sixty-four percent of Eastern
Washington drivers say they’re comfortable driving in winter conditions,
compared to 53 percent of those in Western Washington.
makes sense, with their experience driving in a colder climate,” said Osterberg.
“My own perception was that the east-west disparity would be even greater,
based on the traffic snarls we see in snowstorms west of the Cascades.”
Regardless of where you live, Northwest drivers should be
especially cautious during the first snowy days of the year, which are
substantially more dangerous than those that follow, according to a study in
the American Journal of Public Health.
Many would agree that’s wise advice. About one in 10
Washington drivers have suffered the unfortunate fate of abandoning their car
in a snowstorm, according to the PEMCO poll.
Beyond the inconvenience, abandoned cars are particularly
troubling because they’re obstacles and sometimes roadblocks on snowy roads,
arterials, and even freeways.
Any time snow or ice is a factor, PEMCO recommends
staying off the road if feasible. Of those polled who had to abandon a car in a
snowstorm, many said they followed PEMCO’s best practices:
- Try to get as far off the traveled roadway as you
- Turn on your flashers, and leave them on. A dead
battery is better than causing an accident for which you could be held
- Set out flares to warn other drivers, if you can safely
- Make a reasoned judgment about whether to stay with the
vehicle and call for help, or to strike out on your own. Some factors to
consider are your health, weather-appropriate clothing, distance to the
nearest help, and the likelihood of your vehicle being hit while you're
- Leave a note in the window with your contact
information. That improves your chance of hearing from someone who hits
your vehicle, or from the authorities.
- Take your most valuable items with you.
- Be sure to remove documents containing sensitive
personal information about you or your family.
- Set the emergency brake and lock the doors.
Professional towing companies know how to safely tow your vehicle.
learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and to view a summary of
the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll,
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 November 2013.
the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon
residents several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current
Northwest issues. The sample size, 600 respondents in Washington and 400
respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1
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.
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.
PEMCO ranks “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Auto Insurers in the
Northwest Region” according to J.D. Power. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.