New Jersey

New Jersey Considers Lifting Ban on Self-Service Gas Stations—Legislators Worried About Public Safety

NJ adults can't perform what's a basic task in most of the country


Dustin Quasar/flickr

New Jersey is considering legislation that would lift the state's ban on pumping your own gas. , New Jersey and Oregon are the only two states in the U.S. that still have such bans on the books. Oregon, meanwhile, is considering a limited reform—permitting gas stations in rural counties with fewer than 40,000 residents to offer self-service so that they can stay open even when an employee is unavailable.

While Oregon legislators point to the idea that their state's ban "creates jobs," New Jersey legislators appear to be sticking with the "original intent" of their law, public safety. The first self-service gas station in the United States wasn't opened until 1947 in Los Angeles by Frank Urich, who thought cafeterias worked better than restaurants because they offered more options. New Jersey was one of the first states to ban self-service gas stations—in 1949. Other states introduced their own bans, but now only New Jersey and Oregon remain.

Because the law has left many adult New Jersey residents unable to use a pump, the proposed lifting of the ban would be phased in. As reports:

Republican Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon said Saturday the bill would authorize drivers to fuel cars themselves. The bill calls for a three-year period where merchants can offer self-service gas but must also provide full service. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate. O'Scanlon says his bill would be introduced in June.

O'Scanlon calls the current law unnecessary and says it can lead to inconvenient waits at the pump. Supporters of the current law say it promotes safety, but O'Scanlon questions whether 48 other states are less safe for letting motorists pump gas.

Gov. Jon Corzine (D) suggested lifting the ban in 2006, saying it could lower the price of gas by 6 cents, but believed there was too much opposition to the idea.