Why You Should Not Pump Gas While Your Vehicle Is On

We’ve all seen warning signs at gas stations telling us to turn off our car engines before pumping gas. While nothing will likely happen if you ignore the warning and leave your engine running. However, does that mean it is safe to do so? The answer is no. The reason is that pumping gas with your engine running can lead to a fire.

It is a rare occasion for this to happen since it has to be a series of bad luck. If the chances of a fire are slim, you might wonder why there’s even such a rule. The reason is that the consequences of a fire can be devastating. A gas station is surrounded by spilled gas on the ground, fumes, gas pumps, and other nearby vehicles. The worst-case scenario would be catastrophic.

When these potentially tragic outcomes are preventable, it’s easy to see why gas stations don’t allow customers to leave their engines running while filling up with gas.

Some cities have made it illegal. So while you can pump gas with your car engine on, it is against the law.

How Gas Can Catch on Fire at a Fuel Station

Over 5,000 fires are reported at gas stations in the U.S. each year. For gasoline to ignite, there are three essential elements. Gas, air, and a heat source or ignition spark.

A gas station fire can lead to severe injuries, deaths, and property damage. All of this can happen at a gas station in many ways, so let’s look at a few other actions that can lead to a tragic accident.

Smoking While Pumping Gas

Most gas stations post warning signs that smoking is not allowed. Though many people obey this rule, some still carelessly discard cigarette butts at gas stations. Although it may be fully extinguished, even the slightest ember could cause ignition. On a windy day, smoking can cause hot ash particles to land near the fuel tank and cause a conflagration.

Federal law states that open flames and smoking are not allowed in areas used for fuel areas, storage, or enclosed storage of equipment containing fuel.

Using Cell Phones While Pumping Gas

Other signs warn against using cell phones at fuel stations due to the potential for static electricity. It is one of the leading causes of fires at gas stations. Data shows that cell phones can create a situation where a static discharge occurs while refueling gas. For instance, sitting in your vehicle to use the phone can build up static from the carpet or fabric seats. Pacing in rubber-soled shoes on cement can create a charge.

What To Do If Someone is Pumping Gas With Their Car On

Although minding your own business is the best solution in most situations, our safety should come before good manners. If someone is smoking near the pump or refueling gas with the engine running, consider doing some or all of the following:

  • Try calmly talking to the person. However, judge the situation before approaching them. Confronting them could lead to arguments and violence.
  • If you are uncomfortable talking to the person, report it to the attendant or cashier. If they don’t do anything about it, leave and don’t return to that gas station.
  • You could also write reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp, Google, or other gas apps.

Is it Worth it to Pump Gas While Your Car is Running?

Even though most new vehicles have safety features to address this problem, there is still a real danger due to gas vapors and static electricity. While you should avoid pumping gas with the car running, other actions you do at a gas station can also lead to a tragic accident.

So to recap, don’t leave your car running, don’t use your cell phone, and don’t smoke while pumping gas. Also, don’t get back in your vehicle or top off your tank. If the tank overfills, press the emergency immediately and shut off buttons on the gas pump.

Watch YouTube Video: Can Leaving a Car Running While Pumping Gas Start a Fire? The video from WUSA 9 below verifies what happens if you leave your car running while pumping gas.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento personal injury attorney. If you have been involved in an accident and suffered serious injuries, please call our experienced legal team at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. Our accident lawyers can offer free, friendly advice.

See our proven track record of success on our Verdicts and Settlements page.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

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