PEMCO Poll: Washington drivers claim to be safer, comfortable driving in snow



​​SEATTLE – Do snow-covered roads somehow make you a safer driver than the next car on the road? That’s the surprising outcome from a recent PEMCO Insurance poll, which found that 58% of licensed Washington drivers said they’re comfortable driving in the snow, while another 58% say they are safer than other drivers in snowy conditions.

In fact, only one in six drivers – about 16% – admit to significant concern when they’re behind the wheel in the snow, a sentiment shared by PEMCO’s Northwest Profile #1, "First Snowflake Freakout Lady."

"We were surprised so many Washington drivers feel comfortable driving in the snow," said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. "We assumed lots of Western Washington drivers would relate to ‘First Snowflake Freakout Lady,’ but apparently they’re as comfortable in the snow as their Eastern Washington neighbors. Go figure."

Comparing by gender, 77% of men and only 45% of women say they feel comfortable driving in the snow.

"First Snowflake Freakout Lady" is one of many Northwest Profiles from PEMCO’s "We’re A Lot Like You. A Little Different." ad campaign that celebrates the quirks we share as Northwest residents. Among "First Snowflake Freakout Lady’s" traits is a tendency to abandon a perfectly good 4-wheel drive vehicle at the slightest hint of snow and to carry a superfluous array of emergency preparedness tools, including tire chains, flares, and 200 pounds of sand.

According to the PEMCO poll, only one-third of Washington drivers usually carry chains in their cars, and fewer than half of the poll’s respondents said they had ever put chains on their own vehicle. Of the 44%  who have experience installing tire chains, a significant majority are men, 67% versus 28% of women.

Though 58% of Washington drivers say they’re comfortable driving in the snow, PEMCO reminds motorists that the safest option is to stay off the road in inclement weather. For drivers who find themselves stuck or stranded in snowy conditions, PEMCO suggests staying in the car as long as it’s safe, and abandoning the vehicle as a last resort.

For drivers who must abandon their vehicles, PEMCO says there’s a right way to do it:

  • Try to get as far off the traveled roadway as you safely can.
  • Turn on your flashers, and leave them on. A dead battery is better than causing an accident for which you could be held responsible.
  • Set out flares to warn other drivers, if you can safely do so.
  • Make a reasoned judgment about whether to remain with the vehicle and call for help, or to strike out on your own. Some factors to consider are your health, clothing for the weather, distance to the nearest help, and the likelihood of your vehicle being hit while you're inside it.
  •  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 personal information that could allow a thief to locate your home and loved ones, steal your identity or otherwise defraud you.
  • Secure the vehicle by setting the emergency brake and locking the doors. Professional towing companies know how to safely tow your vehicle.

To learn more about PEMCO’s poll and to view a summary of the results, visit, where the public is invited to take an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare to those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in August 2010.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 606 respondents, 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 +/- 4.1 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit