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PEMCO Poll: Tougher laws wanted for teen drivers

April 13, 2010

SEATTLE ‑ A recent poll by PEMCO Insurance, the state’s largest local insurance company, reveals that Washington drivers want stricter penalties for teen drivers who violate Washington’s intermediate license law.

The poll, taken at the end of 2009, shows that 51 percent of licensed drivers believe that intermediate-license violations should be strengthened from a secondary to a primary offense.  As a primary offense, the law would allow police to issue tickets to teens solely for violating the intermediate license law’s passenger or curfew restrictions.

The 2001 law makes it illegal for newly licensed teen drivers to drive with passengers under 20 years old who are not immediate family members, and for those teens to drive unaccompanied between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Intermediate drivers must abide by these restrictions during the first six months of having a driver license.

 "Sixteen and 17-year-olds in particular are inexperienced drivers, and any sort of distraction, whether it’s from a cell phone or a friend in the front seat, increases the risk of a crash," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson.  "The intermediate license law helps teens gain skill and experience in a safe setting."

PEMCO also asked drivers if intermediate license laws are enforced with the teen drivers in their own households. Of those with teenage drivers, 84 percent of parents said they enforce the state’s laws with their teens.  Additionally, three out of four parents (76 percent) enforce other driving-privilege rules aside from what the law requires.

Washington’s intermediate license law also requires parents to accompany their teens for 50 hours of practice driving, including 10 hours at night, before teens can get their driver license.

"Parents who are involved will know if their teens are ready for independent driving," Osterberg said. "If some parents think driving restrictions need to be extended, they should consider setting their own ‘house rules.’"

To help educate parents, teachers, and teens about the dangers young drivers face, PEMCO offers an interactive teen-driving website that shares tips, fun quizzes, and statistics that teens should know before they hit the road.

Osterberg reminds groups who want to learn more about how to improve teen driving safety that PEMCO offers speakers who do presentations free of charge. If you’d like to invite a PEMCO representative to talk about teen driving, submit your request to Jon Osterberg at 206-628-4019 or jon.osterberg@PEMCO.com.

"Parents and teenagers can work together to develop their own strategy for gaining skill and avoiding distractions," Osterberg said. "And PEMCO can help guide that."

To learn more about PEMCO’s poll and to view a summary of the results, visit www.pemco.com/poll. The public is invited to participate in an informal version of the poll to see how their own responses compare to those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in December 2009.

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, 604 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 www.pemco.com.

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