For many Americans, filling up at the gas station is such a mundane part of life that they don’t give it a second thought. A key to this has been the consistent improvement of gas station technology; from the rise of self-pay gas pumps to the innovation of pay-at-the-pump options, gas stations have made it easier and faster for customers to fill up their cars as quickly as possible. But this kind of convenience serves another purpose besides simply making consumers’ lives easier: it also guarantees the safety of the gas stations themselves. Gas station builders use convenience to promote safety when designing new gas stations.
From a convenience perspective, the advantages of paying for your gas without going into the store are obvious; but this modern concept, first popularized in the 1980s, affects safety as well. By not leaving your car unattended, accidents like overfilling or starting a fire become much more likely. Additionally, carjackings and robberies are less likely to occur since you stay near your car the entire time.
Another modern convenience of gas stations is that the pump automatically stops before overfilling your gas tank. Spilling gasoline due to overfilling becomes a fire hazard, and is one of the most common causes of gas station fires. Sensors that automatically stop refueling when your gas tank is full don’t just help you save money; they also keep you safe by preventing fires.
Even without the possibility of a gasoline fire, the sheer number of cars that come through a gas station makes it one of the most common sites of rear-end collisions. All parking lots pose a risk, but gas station parking lots are usually smaller, with many cars moving in different directions at the same time. This is why many new gas stations have more fueling stations and wider gaps between them. Allowing more cars to refuel at once speeds up the flow of traffic, making accidents less likely.
Designers have been working to make gas stations safer and more convenient for decades, often achieving these two goals with the same design choices. Making it easier to fill up makes the whole process faster, decreasing the likelihood that you will be in any kind of accident at a gas station. Automating the fuel pump to prevent overfilling makes your life easier while also keeping you from being exposed to dangerous fumes.