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Curious About Gas Pump Clip Ban In Mass.

By David Wade, WBZ-TV
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(source: Thinkstock)

(source: Thinkstock)

WBZ-TV's David Wade David Wade
Multiple award-winning journalist David Wade co-anchors WBZ-TV News at...
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BOSTON (CBS) – When you’re outside pumping gas, maybe in the cold and snow, do you ever wonder why those little hold open clips on the nozzles don’t work? Massachusetts is the only state that bans the use of the clips that allow you to fill your tank without having to stand there squeezing the trigger, but not everyone likes that rule.

The reason for the regulation is a concern about fires. If you set the clip so your tank is automatically filled up and go back into your car, you could pick up static electricity from sliding across the seat.

When you go back to the nozzle and touch metal, a small spark could ignite the gas vapors. It has happened, but even fire prevention experts say it’s rare.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports

Philip Mondello hates the rule. “While I’m standing here freezing, holding this like a jerk, I could be sitting in my car nice and comfy,” he complains. He thinks regulators are just looking for a problem. “I think this is a perfect example, if you want to dial it into our current environment, of government overreach,” says Mondello.

Video Of Potential Danger: The Petroleum Equipment Institute

After all, not having to stand there is convenient, and you can do it almost everywhere else. “We’re the only state in the country that has this law, so I can’t imagine it being a real pressing concern,” says Mondello. Actually, New Jersey bans self serve stations entirely so the point is moot in the Garden State.

But Lorraine Carli from the National Fire Protection Association in Quincy says it is a real concern. “It makes sure that when somebody is refilling their vehicle they’re actually standing there monitoring it and paying attention,” she says.

And at self serve stations, if you’re not paying attention there’s a greater risk of gas spills, or that someone will drive away with the nozzle still in the tank, or worse….a fire. Still, some drivers trick the system by jamming something underneath the nozzle, holding the trigger up for an automatic fill up.

Since it’s easy to get around, could the regulation change? The State Fire Marshall’s office tells us they’re reviewing the entire fire code, and that the ban on hold open clips is part of that review.

What about gas pump fires caused by static from a cell phone? Well, there’s no evidence of that ever happening. Consider it an urban legend. The warning to stay off your phone is more a concern about being distracted while you’re filling your tank.

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