If you’re a driver in 48 of America’s 50 states, you pump your own gas. But for the other two states, Oregon and New Jersey, an attendant fills your tank. The two states passed laws in the 1940s and ’50s prohibiting citizens from filling their own tanks, which lawmakers viewed as a dangerous fire hazard.
And while pumping gas today is certainly more safe than in the early days of automobile travel, the risk of accidentally starting a fire is still present.
Static electricity is the main culprit at the pump, which in rare cases can ignite the fuel vapors to cause a flash fire.
Luckily, static electricity fires at gas pumps are easily avoidable. Here’s how:
1. Ground yourself when climbing out of your car.
Climbing back in your car after starting refueling may seem like a good idea, especially on a chilly day. But the motion of sliding back out of your car seat can create static electricity – and a deadly spark that can ignite the gas fumes when you reach for the nozzle.
This mistake causes half of all static electricity fires, so if you must re-enter the car while the pump is running, ground yourself when you climb out by touching the metal part of your car door.
2. Be careful when filling a portable fuel container.
On tonight’s episode of Do or Die , an unsuspecting man starts a fire when he tries to fill a gas can in the back of his pickup, where the metal nozzle built up a static charge from touching the plastic gas can on the insulated truck bed.
To ward off disaster, always place portable fuel containers on the ground and never on the floor, in the trunk or on the bed of a pickup truck. When fueling, keep the nozzle in contact with the container to avoid igniting the fuel vapors, and don’t move away from it until you’re done filling and the cap is back in place.