If you don’t have to be on the road when it’s snowing or threatening to snow, don’t be.
That’s the advice from Washington State Patrol Trooper Heather Axtman, who on Monday was up on Highway 2 near Stevens Pass explaining to dozens of intrepid drivers that the road would be closed until further notice.
“Schools do not shut down so kids can play in the snow all day. The state Department of Transportation doesn’t close roads for fun. The passes are shut for a reason,” she said. “And if you can work remotely, I would highly suggest it.”
But Pacific Northwesterners take to the roads in surprising numbers during snowy conditions, despite the fact that more people than ever can work remotely. They do so in part because they feel pressure to go in to their workplaces and in part because they feel confident in their driving skills, according to a new survey from PEMCO Mutual Insurance.
The survey, conducted by FBK Research of Seattle and released this week, asked 578 Washington and 427 Oregon residents for their views on driving in inclement weather and an assessment of their skills.
It found that 62% of respondents feel some pressure to go to work even when it snows, a slight decrease from the 66% who answered the same way in a similar poll five years ago.
When people do go to work during cold and icy conditions, 69% prefer to drive themselves, the survey found.
“It was a little surprising to see a majority of employees still feel pressured to drive, with all of the opportunities to work from home in the greater Seattle area,” said PEMCO Communications Manager Derek Wing, who was working remotely on Monday. Wing said his bosses at the insurance company “know you miss 100% of the chances of being in a car accident if you’re not in a car.”
Of course, not everyone can work remotely. Jobs that require an employee’s physical presence — construction, for instance, or bus driving, or food service — may vary in how they approach snow days.
But for people who have a choice, a few factors could be at play in the poll results, Wing said. Studies have shown that people feel more productive when they’re in the office, and Pacific Northwesterners are “conscientious, like to feel productive and have that old-school mentality of ‘get in to work when you can.'”
And most people seem to think they can. The poll shows that a majority of drivers in Washington and Oregon think they’re at least as good a driver as others. That trend skews by gender, though: 63% of Washington men believe they’re more skillful than other drivers on the road, while 39% of Washington women make that same claim. Oregonians have a slightly lower opinion of their own driving skills, with 53% of men and 35% of women claiming to be a “more skillful driver” than most.
Regardless of confidence levels, Wing and Axtman both advise people to err on the safe side.
Those who do venture out should leave early and pack plenty of water, food and blankets just in case, Wing said.
Axtman was blunter: “Look — if the schools are closed and the roads are shut it’s because it’s not safe. You might feel comfortable driving in the snow, but think about the other drivers.”