Business Insider magazine noted that distracted drivers are increasingly leaving with the gas nozzles attached to their cars. “I’d say this would happen at least once a month,” said Kirk McCauley, who owned a gas station in Beltsville, Maryland, for 31 years. “I’ve run people down four miles away. They had no idea the nozzle was in there.”
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 41 million people fill-up their vehicles each day nationwide, so odds are in favor of the occasional hose breakaway. The reason for most nozzle drive offs: distracted drivers on a cell phone. NACS spokesperson Jeff Lenard noted that most station owners post signs telling you not to use a cellphone while fueling, not to risk a fire, but to keep motorists focused on the task at hand.
“Invariably when consumers drive off with the gas nozzle it’s because they were on the phone,” Lenard said, a point to which McCauley agreed. “The phone rings, and they get in the car and go,” he said.
While gas drive-offs don’t pose a significant danger—each pump has a break-away device that detaches the hose if it is pulled with sufficient force, and today’s dispensers feature automatic shutoff valves—it still impacts the gas station, with a new breakaway device costing up to $100. But if the nozzle is damaged, the repair could cost up to $400, McCauley said.
As for those motorists who drove away and later realized the nozzle remained in their gas tank, McCauley said many did not come back. “I think some people are scared of getting in trouble,” he said. Those who did return either had contacted their insurance company to settle the bill or paid for the repair out-of-pocket. “They were embarrassed more than anything,” McCauley said. (NACS: www.nacsonline.com)