Increasingly hectic schedules and technology overload might be to blame for a surprising number of motorists leaving gas stations with the gas nozzle still attached to their vehicles.
Beltway Shell Manager Ken Duckson rolls his eyes every time he hears the distinct "rubber band-like snapping sound” of the gas hose ripping off a pump.
The Beltway Shell is situated along Georgia Avenue, just south of I-495. It has eight pumps, and according to Duckson, a month rarely goes by without some aloof driver forgetting to disengage from the pump before pressing the accelerator.
“In the last few years it’s increased considerably. Mostly because of cell phones," Duckson remarked. "People kind of get in their own world. They’re on the phone, get in the car and drive off.”
Duckson estimates that 80 percent of people stop and report the damage to the on-duty clerk; the other 20 percent drive away without notifying anyone. Employees will review surveillance video in an attempt to capture the vehicle's license plate number or any other descriptive information, passing the information onto police.
In fact, just last Friday, around 6:30 p.m., a young male driver yanked the gas nozzle and hose off pump number seven. Observant clerks rushed outside and told the driver to come to the indoor counter. Instead, the man drove away.
"I equate it to a hit and run," Duckson stated. "If you damage property, you have to offer up your insurance and report it."
Duckson says that the gas hoses are designed to break away when tugged in an effort to minimize to damage to the pump. Oftentimes repairs can be made at little to no cost. However, in certain cases the fix has generated a bill of $800. Duckson's job often involves reasoning with the driver who caused the damage.
“Basically they try to tell you it’s your responsibility. Some try to say it’s our fault, while others just cuss you. I've been called every name in the book," Duckson added with a smirk and soft laugh. "I had one woman tell me it should be built into the price of the fuel."
Damage to gas pumps ebbs and flows, but Duckson guesses he handles multiple cases each month. The holidays, he says, often bring a few extra cases.
Is there a cure? Unless the pace of life eases up and technology goes the way of the encyclopedia, Duckson isn't very confident.
“Most just forgot. Some admit they were on the phone, while others are just checked-out. 'Pre-occupied,' we hear that word a lot," Duckson concluded with a chuckle.