Are Beaver State Motorists Eager to Fill Up on Their Own?

Polls show growing preference among Oregonians for lifting self-service fueling ban

Full-service gas station (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores)

SALEM, Ore. -- Oregon is one of only two states that still prohibit self-serve fueling, but public opinion seems to be swinging more solidly in favor of allowing it.

According to a May survey of registered Oregon voters by Public Policy Polling, 46% said they would support allowing drivers in the state to pump their own gasoline, while 44% opposed and 11% were not sure. Men (55% to 39%), voters under 45 years old (53% to 33%) and Republicans (52% to 41%) were most in support of self-serve, while Democrats (39% to 47%), women (38% to 47%) and seniors (34% to 55%) were most opposed.

Meanwhile, an informal online poll by The Oregonian showed 43% of the newspaper's readers in favor of lifting the ban, with 19% preferring that drivers at least have the option to fuel up themselves; 37% of participants opposed a change, with 1% not sure.

Oregon has banned self-serve fueling since 1951 (New Jersey instituted a ban in 1949).

The state has multiple reasons for not allowing the practice, including the many potential risks to drivers at the pump--sparking a fire or slipping on fuel; increased danger for the disabled, senior citizens and pregnant women; and the practice of charging more for full-service in states that allow self-service as an option, which could discriminate against low-income, disabled and elderly drivers. While the state has debated the merit of the ban from time to time, there has not been a serious, recent push to lift the ban.

Oregonian readers who opposed lifting the ban commented at the paper's website about their reasons, including the convenience of filling up in bad weather, and for the elderly and people with kids in the car. There were also concerns about the state losing jobs.

"I really like the idea of providing employment for my fellow Oregonians. And I'm willing to spend an extra two minutes at a gas station in exchange for that," commented one reader.

Among those in favor of self-service, some cited the ability to fill up faster yourself.

"The biggest advantage is the wait time," said one reader who moved from Oregon to another state that allows self-serve. "Very seldom are there lines, and I can get in and out quickly, never having to pay an attendant, wait for change or trust my credit card with a stranger."

Meanwhile, all sides debated what effect, if any, it would have on gasoline prices.

Click here to view the full Oregonian report and video.