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PEMCO Poll: Traffic cameras instill caution in Washington drivers

September 22, 2010

SEATTLE – Like them or hate them, the numbers don’t lie: More than half of Washington drivers say that red-light cameras – recent additions to many intersections statewide – do change driving behavior.  According to a recent poll from PEMCO Insurance, 55 percent of drivers say the cameras make them think twice before pushing the limits of yellow lights.

While drivers agree that the cameras do change driving behavior, nearly as many Washington drivers say the photo-enforced program shouldn’t be extended, the poll shows.

In 2006, Seattle launched an automated traffic camera pilot program and installed cameras at six targeted intersections. Similar programs in other communities also have been implemented, and many are met with strong opposition.

The introduction of red-light cameras also has sparked discord among some drivers. For example, Mukilteo residents gathered enough signatures to put the camera issue to a required vote in November. Initiative 2 would require a subsequent public vote before installing each new red-light or speeding camera, and would cap fines at $20.

It’s clear that drivers are lining up on different sides of the issue,” said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. “But either way, cameras do deter drivers from running red lights, according to this latest poll.”

PEMCO’s poll shows that a significant majority — 64 percent — think that traffic cameras are at least somewhat effective in decreasing traffic violations. Twenty percent of those polled question the cameras’ effectiveness, and just 10 percent think red light cameras aren’t at all effective at decreasing violations.

However, opinion among respondents is divided concerning the number of traffic cameras and whether more should be installed within drivers’ communities.

Thirty-one percent of those polled support more cameras in the areas where they drive, while another 31 percent said the number of existing cameras is “about right.” And 29 percent said fewer or no cameras should be installed.

The poll also shows that drivers are unsure about the consequences of receiving a citation if caught by a red light camera. Forty-five percent said they don’t know if the violation was recorded on their driving history, while 31 percent thought tickets were reported to insurers, and 24 percent thought they were not reported.

According to Washington law, red-light camera violations are similar to parking infractions, which are not part of the registered owner’s driving record.

“The key take-away is, our poll shows these cameras make people think hard before pushing their luck to try and make a light,” Osterberg said. “That’s good for everyone’s safety.”

To learn more about PEMCO’s 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 to see how their own responses compare to those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 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, 635 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.0 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 +/- 4.0 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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