The free market experiment of letting people pump their own gas is over. It failed. That appears to be the message behind a new piece of Illinois legislation that would prohibit self-service gas stations.
“No gas may be pumped at a gas station in this State unless it is pumped by a gas station attendant employed at the gas station,” reads the Gas Station Attendant Act, which was introduced last week by state Rep. Camille Lilly (D–Oak Park).
What is wrong with these people?
Increasing safety is the best justification for Lilly’s bill. It’s still not a very good one.
According to a study from the National Fire Protection Association, there were 5,000 gas station fires per year between 2004 and 2008, which resulted in an average of two deaths a year and $20 million in property damage. That seems like a pretty small risk given that there were 117,000 gas stations in the country at the time. The number of gas station fires has also fallen dramatically since 1980, the NFPA notes, even as self-service has become more common.
There’s also not much reason to assume that a gas station attendant who’s responsible for filling up multiple cars at once is going to be more careful than individual motorists.
I pay far more attention to my car than an attendant does!