A law that affects fewer than 300,000 Oregonians sparked a national debate on social media just days before it went into effect. On January first, Oregonians stepped into the new year with more freedoms they didn’t even want. House Bill 2482 allows gas stations in certain, rural parts of the state to offer self-service and is responsible for making Oregon the rear-end of all the gas-pumping jokes you may have heard lately.

Common Questions About Oregon’s New Gas Pumping Law

End-times hysteria about the death of full-service stations has never been greater. The law protecting full-service stations has been in effect since 1951. It took until 2015 to relax the law just a pinch to allow stations in rural areas to offer self-service gas between sundown (6 pm) and sunrise (6 am). Though almost everyone knows about the 2018 law thanks to Facebook, it won’t affect the vast majority of residents in the state.

Why Were Self-Serve Stations Banned in Oregon?

The original law cited several reasons why pumping gas should be left to properly trained attendants. These ranged from reducing the risk of spills to helping the elderly avoid discomfort. Most had to do with safety; yet, as pumping gas became safer and self-service stations swept the nation in the 70s, Oregon was adamant about keeping its full-service stations. Today, self-service is still prohibited throughout the state except in the 15 counties that can now offer it.

Among the 17 reasons currently cited for keeping full-service stations are:

  • Higher insurance liability rates for gas station owners
  • Exposure to toxic fumes could hurt customers (but magically not the attendants)
  • Exposure to the gas station’s premises could put one in danger of criminal activity and slick surfaces (again, attendants are immune)
  • Keeping kids safe who otherwise would be left alone in the car while a parent pumps their own gas (though many still need to go inside to pay)
  • Protecting customers who want to use full-service from discriminatory pricing should self-service stations sweep the state (self-service stations could save Oregonians 3 to 5 cents per gallon)
  • Protecting the elderly and disabled from unreasonable discomfort, even though the American with Disabilities Act requires self-service gas stations to provide attendants to assist those with disabilities

After other states began implementing self-service gas stations, those gas stations passed on the savings of not hiring as many attendants to their customers in the form of reduced gas prices. The truth of Oregon’s ban today likely boils down to protecting full-service stations that would not remain competitive alongside self-service stations. Add to that over 60 years of convenience for all the state’s drivers, and you have a large population of rugged northwesterners who mostly abhor the thought of touching the pump.

Who does the law affect?

The new law affects just a small fraction of drivers who live and commute in Eastern Oregon. Only fifteen of the state’s thirty-six counties can offer self-service gas, each with a population of under 40,000 people. In all, this law affects about 266,000. Only three counties on Oregon’s coast can now offer self-service gasoline from 6 pm to 6 am.

Those who live in Oregon’s most heavily-populated areas will have to travel out of their way to get the self-service experience.

Can I get in trouble if I pump my own gas when it’s not allowed?

Although it almost never happens, law enforcement officers throughout the state may issue a $500 citation to anyone caught pumping gas who is not authorized to do so.

How many stations will change to full-service?

Many full-service stations in these rural counties don’t plan on changing their business model. Adapting to self-service would require them to install new pumps. The option to offer self-service gas alleviates rural gas stations that don’t operate 24 hours a day. It’s more practical to have one self-service pump than schedule an attendant to wait for a customer who may not even arrive.

Is pumping gas dangerous?

Improved technology continues to reduce the chances of starting a gas station fire. There is a risk to pumping gas that involves mainly people getting in and out of their cars while fueling. A person who goes back into his car to sit down, put on a jacket, or other activity picks up static. If, when he leaves, he does not touch the car door or another metal object, he can carry that static charge until he picks up the pump, in which case he risks lighting a fire. Avoid the possibility by following these simple rules:

  • Always turn off the engine before fueling
  • Do not get back into the car after you have started fueling
  • If you do have to get back into the car, be sure to touch at least one surface to discharge the static
  • Never smoke while pumping gas

Of course, the potential for a dangerous accident at the pump can always be great when the gas station shows negligence in properly maintaining their facilities. At Rizk Law, we are fully committed to safety and well-being. Our team of personal injury attorneys in Portland have decades of experience helping accident victims get the compensation they need to recover from their losses. Call (503) 245-5677 or email info@rizklaw.com for more information.