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Pardon me, are you a polite driver?

September 10, 2009

SEATTLE, WAPEMCO Insurance today released the first set of results of an ongoing examination of how Northwest drivers view the politeness of their own driving behavior and that of other drivers on Washington roads.

PEMCO’s tracking study measures several variables associated with polite and aggressive driving behavior, and it will provide insight into how perceptions of that behavior change over time, and how it varies between cities across the region.

"We just completed the first sampling of research, so we don't yet have comparative data, but we’re already seeing some interesting information in the poll responses," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson.

PEMCO created the PEMCO Polite Driving Index to track these developing trends. The index also will gauge Washington drivers’ behavior and perception of politeness on Northwest roads twice a year as part of the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll. 

PEMCO calculates the index by taking the poll’s collective data regarding polite driving behavior and then subtracting collective responses about aggressive driving. For this first measurement, the index is set at 100 and is equal to 3.9 net polite gestures per month, which establishes the benchmark for comparative purposes for future studies. Index scores above 100 represent polite behavior, while less than 100 on the index indicates aggressive tendencies. 

Although comparative data won’t be available until PEMCO’s next round of polling, this most recent poll revealed interesting perceptions about driving courtesy among Washington drivers:  

Women vs. Men

Women in particular consider themselves to be more polite, exhibiting 4.6 polite gestures per month (an index of 118), while men consider themselves to be more aggressive than polite (3.1 gestures per month, or 79 on the index). 

East vs. West

The index also reveals that Western Washington drivers consider themselves to be more polite than do their Eastern Washingtonian counterparts.  Drivers on the west side of the state score 105 index points, while Eastern Washington drivers fall below 100 with an index of 95. 

Overall, all Washington drivers polled admit to driving aggressively – like using erratic maneuvers and rude gestures – an average of 1.3 times per month, while they witness similar gestures from all other drivers they encounter nearly 10 times as often, or about 12.4 times per month. 

When it comes to being polite, poll respondents say they use polite gestures – like turn signals in advance and courtesy waves – an average of 10.7 times a month, while they witness other drivers doing the same only 6.9 times per month. 

Interestingly, despite the increase in possible distractions, people who admit to using electronic devices say they’re more likely to be polite and witness politeness.  However, electronic users also admit to displaying aggressive behavior more than their counterparts, 49 percent versus 33 percent of non-electronic users. 

PEMCO will continue to update its index data as it’s collected through PEMCO’s Northwest Poll.  To see how you compare to results collected by this poll, visit www.pemco.com/poll.  Results will be posted by the end of the week.

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, 601 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4.1 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was 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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