As traffic heats up, are Northwest drivers cooling down?

New PEMCO Polite Driving Index reveals millennial drivers may be less rude than before



SEATTLE – Even as traffic in the Northwest heats up, drivers may be cooling down. That's the upshot of the latest poll from PEMCO Insurance, which reveals a decline in the number of rude or aggressive acts local drivers witness from fellow motorists on the road.

According to the PEMCO Polite Driving Index, which measures driving politeness and road aggression reported by Washington and Oregon residents, drivers today say they witness fewer aggressive acts now than they did five years ago.

Whether its tailgating, erratic moves, or rude gestures, drivers in Washington report seeing at least three fewer aggressive acts per month from their fellow drivers – a drop from 12 to about nine since 2010. In Portland, Ore., the data tell a similar story: witnessed aggressive acts among drivers there have gone from 10 to nine per month over that time, as well.

But not all drivers are cooling down. The poll finds that the better behavior seems to be attributed to younger, millennial drivers (those 35 and under) while their older counterparts' aggression remains about the same.

In Washington, millennial drivers have traditionally admitted to being more aggressive than their older counterparts. And while the latest poll upholds that trend, it also shows that millennial drivers' aggressive acts are down from 2.6 in 2013 to two in 2015, while older drivers have stayed at about one admitted act of aggression per month over the same span.

"We were surprised to learn that millennials appear to be the driving force behind lower tensions on the road," said PEMCO Spokesperson Derek Wing. "We can only speculate, but perhaps it's because they choose more alternative transportation modes like ride-share or public transportation, which are perhaps less infuriating than single-occupancy driving in our region's mounting gridlock."

But even as millennials' manners have improved, respondents of all ages are far more likely to admit witnessing rude driving than committing it themselves.

While a majority of Northwest drivers say they're personally aggressive no more than two times per month, PEMCO's Polite Driving Index reveals that drivers see rude acts from other drivers about 9 times per month.

But, again, it's the younger drivers who experience more aggression. About one-third of the under 55 crowd say they witness 10 or more aggressive acts per month, while just 20 percent of drivers over 55 report seeing aggression at the same rate.

"We're encouraged that drivers' tempers may be cooling, but the poll shows they're still quick to criticize the 'other guy' on the road, so we still have a ways to go before there's complete harmony on the roads," Wing said.

As millennial drivers continue to practice zen behind the steering wheel, PEMCO will continue to track trends through the Polite Driving Index to gauge all drivers' changes over time.

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit​, where you'll find the responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in November 2015.


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