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Fuel-saving Northwest drivers are motivated by greenbacks, not being ‘green’

August 18, 2011

SEATTLE – A recent poll from Northwest insurer PEMCO Insurance reveals that while a majority of drivers say they take steps to reduce the amount of gas they use, about eight out of 10 drivers in Washington and the greater Portland area say their fuel-efficiency practices are motivated by saving money, not the environment. 

According to the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, a survey of drivers across Washington and around the Portland metro area shows that about nine out of 10 put at least some effort into being fuel efficient, but just a fraction do so to reduce the amount of pollutants produced by their vehicle. 

In Washington and the Portland area, 83% of drivers who consciously save fuel say they do so because they want to save money that they would normally spend filling up their gas tank.

“We were surprised to learn that even in the Pacific Northwest, where we have a reputation for being environmentally conscientious, cost still trumps being green,” said PEMCO spokesperson Jon Osterberg. “And with gas prices at record highs in some areas, drivers are certainly feeling the pinch.”

Today, a gallon of gas costs an average of $3.77 in Washington and $3.73 in Oregon, according to AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report, which is more than the national average of $3.63 for a gallon of regular unleaded.

To save on fuel, eight out of 10 drivers in Washington and Portland say they drive at a steady pace and avoid aggressive maneuvers on the road. About 60% proactively monitor their tires to make sure they have the right amount of air pressure, and about 40% make sure they’re not hauling excess cargo.

An additional 39% of Washington and Portland drivers say they avoid using their air conditioner to increase fuel efficiency, but according to Osterberg, drivers may be unnecessarily sweltering if they opt to turn off the AC.

“Air conditioning may not be as much of a fuel drain as some think. According to the auto experts at Edmunds.com, the drag created by traveling with your windows open burns just as much fuel as running your car’s AC,” Osterberg said. 

The PEMCO poll also found that drivers above age 55 are most likely to take steps to reduce their gas usage compared with drivers under 35. Perhaps less surprising, drivers who say they would consider purchasing a hybrid or electric vehicle if they were in the market for a new car are also among those who are more likely to conserve fuel. 

The poll results come on the heels of a major breakthrough in negotiations for higher gas mileage standards for automakers in the United States. President Obama and major auto companies recently announced that by 2025 overall fuel economy will double to 54.5 miles per gallon.

To learn more about the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll and 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 with those collected by FBK Research of Seattle in April 2011 and July 2011.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey that asked Washington and Oregon drivers several questions about driving habits and attitudes toward current Northwest issues. The sample size, 601 respondents in Washington and 600 respondents in the Portland, Ore., metro area, 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 Northwest residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the region and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

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