USA and Canada Holiday Hints
Since towns and therefore gas stations (petrol stations) can be widely separated in the west, it is always wise to fill up whenever convenient.
Numerous sources in guide books and booklets giving hints on driving in America state that it is a offence to run out of petrol in California. Examples include booklets about driving in the USA published by the Budget and Hertz car rental companies.
However, I have had a number of people write to me saying that this rule only applies on some long bridges and similar structures and not on normal roads. I certainly can't find any mention of such a rule in the California Driver's Manual (external link verified Jul-02) so perhaps this is a myth perpetuated from one guide book to another.
Some correspondents have pointed out that there are a number of other long bridges and similar structures in the USA (and possibly in Canada) where it is illegal to run out of petrol.
Adams Douglas kindly sent me this email on the subject:
I'm a 44-year-old native of California and noted your comment about some guidebooks saying it's illegal to run out of petrol in California.
I've been driving in California for 25 years and have never heard of such a thing - nor in any other US state. In fact, I have run out of fuel once or twice in awkward locations (once on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge) and have been assisted by police officers in getting my car refuelled and on my way. None of them ever made a move to cite me or otherwise imply I had done anything illegal.
It's possible that the author of one of those guidebooks committed some infraction as a result of running out of fuel, or perhaps not related to it. He may have received a ticket and assumed it was because he ran out of petrol (most citations an officer writes will just list the number of the traffic code that was violated, but will omit a verbal description).
It's also possible that a town or county in California once passed such a law (especially if it was at the beginning of the era of the automobile) which remained on the books long after anyone enforced it anymore - a guidebook author could have misinterpreted a news or magazine article on such a topic.John Lester sent me these additional comments:
There is no California law about running out of fuel on the roads. There is a law against abandoning a vehicle on the roadway and laws against pedestrian traffic on the freeways. In the San Francisco Bay area there is even a free service called RoadOne operated by the California Department of Transportation for people who run out of fuel or have problems on the freeways, due to these vehicles posing a hazard and obstruction to traffic.
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Most recently modified 4-Oct-02