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Only two states in the United States offer full-service gas: New Jersey and Oregon. New Jersey made it illegal for consumers to pump their own gas in 1949, Oregon in 1951, on the grounds that it was dangerous to handle a liquid so flammable. Now it is 2012, and the laws are still standing their ground even though many other states have created self-service stations. Why?
The debate, of course, is monetary. With full-service, gas stays about five or six cents a gallon cheaper. With gas prices going up, this could make a difference to some drivers. New Jersey has some of the cheapest gas available in the United States, but Oregon gas prices compare to Washington and California.
Gas stations also receive lower insurance premiums when they employ people to serve gas, because workers are trained with safety information and hazards are minimized. Yet, this deduction in insurance is balanced by employee wages. According to Future of the Whirled, 11 to 12 billion cars are fueled without incident. The few accidents that do happen occur because of too much static electricity, not slips or spills.
New Jersey and Oregon have the same basic argument. Officials say that the full-service gas industry creates jobs, about 7,600 workers in each state. They also claim that this service is preferable to the customers. Residents prefer not to get gas on their hands or clothes or deal with the smell, and during bad weather, there is no need to get out of the car.
Chris Christie, current Governor of New Jersey, proposed switching to self-service stations during his campaign in 2009, but the idea was dropped when drivers opposed. KVTB News, for Idaho News and Weather, cites a list of other reasons Oregon officials want to keep the law intact. These include how impossible it is to enforce safety standards on the driving public, Oregon’s rainy climate leading to more slick spots, and gas drive-off thefts being cut down.
The elderly and the disabled prefer to not pump their own gas. In these two states, they have no problem. In other states, their needs are not being met. The Americans with Disabilities Act: Assistance at Self-Serve Gas Stations requires equal access at self-service stations. This means that employees need to help those who cannot pump the gas themselves, for whatever reason, without charging anything extra. However, the law is difficult to enforce and many struggle with gas station attendants.
Opponents of Oregon or New Jersey’s law claim that self-service saves time, and gas will be the same price no matter what. Regardless, the laws are not going to be changing anytime soon.