Most Northwest residents say they're decent swimmers, but many don't take enough steps to be safe around water



Summertime in the Northwest offers many opportunities to relax on the water, and while the vast majority of Washington and Oregon residents rate themselves at least "fair" swimmers, drinking alcohol and other distractions can pose dangers to even the most skilled swimmers and boaters.

According to the latest PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, a majority of residents surveyed (79 percent) spend time on the water each year. And while nearly all (nine out of 10 residents) claim to be decent swimmers, more than half (54 percent) don't take basic safety precautions like wearing a personal flotation device or lifejacket when they're playing on the water.

"Whether you're spending time on the water once a week or once a year, it's critical to be safe regardless of your age or swimming ability," said PEMCO spokesperson Derek Wing. "With Seafair just around the corner, PEMCO urges Northwest swimmers, boaters, and spectators to exercise good judgment and make smart choices when they're on the water."

Whether floating on the Columbia River or heading to Lake Washington for hydroplane races and fun during Seafair, Seattle's signature summertime event, the majority of PEMCO poll respondents (58 percent) agree that that drinking alcohol and playing on the water don't mix. Dozens of boaters are arrested each year for boating under the influence during Seafair weekend alone.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, consuming alcohol on the water is even more hazardous than drinking on land. The heat from the sun, the motion of the water, and even the boat's engine vibrations can intensify the effects of alcohol, leading to quicker impairment for people consuming alcohol on the water. A lack of reaction time, and problems with balance and coordination, can have grave consequences on the water, too.

The Coast Guard points out that exercising better judgment and simply wearing a life jacket could prevent many accidents. Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, and the Coast Guard reports that of the victims involved in fatal boating accidents who drowned, 85 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

"In the Northwest, our poll found that a significant number – 41 percent – think that consuming alcohol on the water is okay at least sometimes. For those folks, PEMCO reminds boaters and swimmers to drink in moderation, wear a life jacket, and appoint a designated driver as captain of the vessel," Wing added.

For swimmers, PEMCO recommends swimming in visible, designated swimming areas, using the buddy system, and knowing the signs of a swimmer in distress. Common signs can be struggling to keep their head above water, frantic movements, or calling for help. Other signs include a tired or weakened swimming style, little movement or submerging under water.

For a complete summary of PEMCO's poll results, visit, where you'll find the responses collected by FBK Research of Seattle in May 2016.


About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll

PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent survey, conducted by FBK Research of Seattle, 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 ​