By David Wade, WBZ-TVBy David Wade

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.

Comments (5)
  1. Paul says:

    I keep a tennis ball between my seat…and when I get gas, I put the ball under the handle….when it’s full, the nozzle shuts off. I don’t go inside the car, but I do put my hands inside my coat to keep warm.

  2. JohnC says:

    The existing law is total BS. The automatic shutoffs work very well. There is no reason not to allow them.

  3. Marty says:

    I’ve even seen signs saying that it’s illegal to jam things in the handle to keep them going…what gives with that? I do it anyways, nobody has ever yelled at me for it, I’ve never spilled any gas, and I’ve yet to catch fire. Plus, MA has the vapor recovery system, so it’s basically a moot point…no vapor, no potential for fire!!

  4. Tin says:

    This is totally off topic, but I think it is cool and for a very special boy….wanted to pass it on, maybe you all will want to do the same.

    A little 9-year old boy in Dracut is battling Neuroblastoma (an agrressive, malignant brain tumor). His birthday is coming up IN FIVE days and he LOVES getting mail. He has a FB page: “Super Nick Power”. His mother wanted to try to get him a birthday card from every state. Do any of you know anyone in: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Louisianna, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, N. Carolina, N Dakota, S Dakota, Tennessee, W Virginia and Wyoming… could you ask them to send Nick a card?

    This is what his Mother wrote on facebook:
    “So as some of you know Nick’s birthday is this month, the 27th and he will be 9 years old. I thought I would surprise him with some happy mail. He loves getting mail. Was trying to see if he can get a card from EVERY STATE. We know he has a lot of followers. Will collect all the cards and give them to him on his birthday. Any one interested send to:
    Super Nick Power
    PO Box 142
    Dracut, MA 01826

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