News Culture

New Jersey Is the Last State That Prohibits Self-Serve Gas

Though many motorists don't like it, most New Jersey residents actually prefer it this way.

The internet has been ripe with memes making fun of Oregon residents not knowing how to pump their own gas after the statewide ban was lifted Jan. 1. That makes New Jersey the final state holding out against the dangers of motorists pumping gas.

The New York Times reports that some New Jersey legislators want to remove this prohibition. Declan J. O’Scanlon Jr., an incoming state Senator, wants to repeal the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act of 1949 that bans the practice. “If I want to pull in, get in and out quickly, I should be able to do so,” O’Scanlon told the Times. “I break the law in New Jersey on a regular basis.” Someone can come to my door and cuff me if they want.”

“I hate visiting New Jersey for that reason only,” said The Drive‘s Danny Korecki, who lives in Pennsylvania. “New Jersey Motorsports Park is one of my closest tracks, so when I have to commute to New Jersey I hate it.”

Courier Steve Chartier told The Drive another issue with New Jersey’s full-service requirement. “I was there Saturday night about midnight. My experience: Went to seven gas stations. Six were closed. I’m guessing it’s related to them all needing full-service attendants.” It seems that finding a place to refuel after hours is more difficult when employing more people is required. Some gas stations outside New Jersey even have completely automated self-service pumps able to dispense fuel when the station is closed.

But many New Jersey legislators, as well as residents, don’t want to change the law at all. The state’s outgoing Governor, Chris Christie proposed changing the law while running for Governor in 2009, but quickly changed his policy after a strong negative response to the proposal. He has made no attempt to have the law changed during his time in office. This attitude does not appear to have changed since then. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll taken in December 2015 revealed that almost three-quarters of the state’s residents don’t want to pump their own gas. Women, in particular, don’t want to get their hands dirty, said 84 percent of the women polled.

“Personally, I like being a diva,” Shelley Frank Tozer of Cape May Court House, New Jersey told The Drive, which seems to validate the poll results. “I’m actually afraid that our gas prices will go up if they allow self-service. The insurance rates are much higher.” Indeed, when traveling south I’ve long had a habit of holding my breath through the high gas price states of Connecticut and New York, then refueling in New Jersey with lower prices than even my home state of Massachusetts.

Peter Lee of Verona, New Jersey, agrees. “Having lived in several states, I believe it’s archaic. However, I also understand that it causes lower insurance for station owners and thus keeps our per-gallon rate lower.” But he doesn’t necessarily agree that gas station attendants are necessary for job creation. “I don’t buy into ‘kids need jobs’ as I never see teens, only immigrants who are related to the station owner, locally.”

Former New Jersey resident Crys Carroll still prefers not to pump her own gas, in part so that “I can avoid the transients which apparently are plaguing Oregon.” She also points out that mandatory full-service fuel pumping creates jobs for all the people who pump the fuel.

Though New Jersey remains the only state with a statewide ban, many smaller municipalities across the U.S. still require attendants to pump gas. Oregon’s recent change still only allows self-serve gas in counties of less than 40,000 people. The town of Milford, Massachusetts also requires full service, despite being in the middle of a stronghold state of liberal laws and policies.

“The only thing you could argue is that New Jerseyans are more flammable than people in the other 49 states,” O’Scanlon told the Times. “Because we eat so much oily pizza, funnel cake and fries, maybe you could make that argument. Otherwise, it’s simply ridiculous.”