Saturday, February 20, 2016


There's a few places in the United States where you can't pump your own gas. You are allowed complete and total control over a ton or more of metal and plastic, which you may direct at three-digit speeds in any direction you choose. Although such an opportunity may be limited by your swift encounter with law enforcement, you possess it, along with the ability to do the consequent amount of damage to yourself and other items or persons.

But you must not open your own gas tank, insert the hose and squeeze the lever, dispensing gasoline into that vehicle. Apparently some drivers are simply not smart enough to do this properly without the aid of the gas station attendant. Oregon has had such a law, although starting this year it holds that its nighttime rural travelers can marshal the mental capacity necessary for this task. Its urban population remains ignorant. And come to think of the kinds of laws the city of Portland passes, there may be something to that.

The good folk at Mental Floss take a look at New Jersey's regulations on this issue, and where they stem from, since the Garden State also prohibits self-serve gas stations. There's some irony in there: New Jersey favorite son Bruce Springsteen may be sprung from his cage on highway 9, but not until he lets the attendant fill his tank.

Anyway, New Jersey's rule dates back to 1949, with safety the stated rationale. As the article notes, the self-serve ban ensures the gas station owner has control over the gas dispensing process and increases public safety. Sounds nice, but some accounts at the time note that the law blocked gas station owners who wanted to offer self-service stations from doing so. And as those who remember the days when stations would offer both can tell you, self-service costs less. Which means that the owners opposed to self-service were able to get the New Jersey legislature to protect them from having to lower prices.

Somebody got serviced, alright.

1 comment:

CGHill said...

Then again, in the early part of this century, when I was a regular visitor to New Jersey, gas in the Mobster State was always cheaper than it had been in Pennsylvania. Best guess: different types of graft allocation.