Cell phones and pumping gas

Has there ever been a fire or explosion caused by a cell phone being operated near a person fueling a vehicle?

The reason I ask is because I had always heard that this was bullcrap, but today at work, we had a safety meeting where one of the topics was to remind us not to use cellphones when fueling our vehicles. The instructor even said that there were 3 cases in the last year of people starting fires/explosions due to their using cell phones while pumping gas.

Static electricity can ignite gasoline vapors. Cell phones are just one culprit but I’ve built up a charge just entering my car to clear out some trash while waiting for the gas to fill. Most gas stations have warnings now to beware of static electricity.

According to the good people at snopes this is an urban legend

Well, it may be an urban legend now but I can imagine in a few years when cellphones become more versatile and battery packs hold larger charges (and are even replaced by some sort of fuel-cell technology) that the risk of a cellphone-sparked fire could become VERY serious, but only in a few rare conditions: i.e. you are watching television on your hydrogen-poweredl cellphone and drop it as you fill your tank and it falls through the rising gasoline fumes…

It’ll never be as bad as the guy who smokes or leave his motor running, though.

A mixture of gasoline in air won’t explode unless the concentration of gas is high enough. If the gasoline vapours at a gas station were anywhere near the levels required for combustion, just driving your car up to it would cause an explosion.

It’s BS. It’s yet another useless, hysterical anti-cell-phone regulation.

Funny, I was thinking about this recently, when I noticed the sign on the gas pump advising me to turn off my car engine, cell phone and any electronic device.

But, the pump is and electronic device! You know, LCD display for gallons/price, etc.

So, WTF?

(And for that matter, I have, once or twice, left the engine running while pumping my gas; both the gas station and I are still standing.)

Ahem. The pump is an electronic device. Pardon my spelling.

True, but the electronics in the pump are sealed so that even if they did spark it wouldn’t ignite the gas. Actually it’s sealed to keep the weather out and stop moisture from corroding the electronics, but because it is sealed it can’t ignite the gas.

That said, I’m an electrical engineer and the first time I saw the cell phone sign I said “you’ve got to be kidding me” :rolleyes:

I think the biggest danger from cell phones comes from the fact that they emit RF and the RF noise could be induced into the pumps processor and cause it to do things like count wrong, giving you either too much or too little gas for the price you paid. By forcing you to turn off your cell phone they prevent you from paying $3000 for that tank of gas, or possibly also paying $0.30.

Cell phones blow up gas pumps, cause cancer, bring airplanes down from the skies at alarming rates, can cook eggs placed in between two phones (so you know it’s doing bad things to your brain!), and cause birth defects, as long as you don’t actually need facts and statistics to back up what you say :smiley:

On a more serious note, recent studies have found that people talking on cell phones while they drive have approximately the same accident rate as drunks. If you want my opinion, leave it on while you are pumping gas but turn the damn thing off while you are behind the wheel!

While at a gas station back when cars had their gas inlet behind the license plate, I watched a guy pull down the license plate, shove the hose into what he THOUGHT was the hole, and spilled a few gallons of gas all over the concrete. Had there been a good source of a spark he could have easily lost his caddy in an instant. Some of these stupid regulations are in place to help prevent the worst case in some of the rarest of circumstances, but remember if there’s a one in a million chance of something happening then it happens to 6,000 people in the world every day.

IMO, the gas stations post this to keep people who prepay from forgetting what they’re doing while talking on their phone and driving away with the pump nozzle still inserted into their tank.

And if you think nobody’s ever actually done this, you’ve got another think coming. :slight_smile:

How timely. There was a story about this on the news this evening. They also covered the story on their website:

Cell phone user starts fire at gas station

Heh. “Fist-degree burns on his hand”, eh?

Yes, but firefighters are convinced that static electricity caused the fire. As far as I know, cellular phones don’t cause static electricity. So someone wanted to blame it on the cellular phone that caused the fire, when in reality he probably could have been going back to his car for anything.

My favorite quote from that story is this one:

“One more tip: Touch your door when you get out to get rid of the static.”

Darn. All this time I’ve been using that Navy surplus jet ejection seat to shoot myself out of the sunroof and parachute back to earth when I put gas in my car, and NOW I find out I should have been using the door all along.

What kind of editor let THAT one go by? Is there a way for a driver to get out of a car WITHOUT touching the door? Is there a bunch of drivers out there that carry insulated tongs so they can exit their cars without having to touch the door?

It boggles.

I want even start on asking why the door is somehow superior to any other part of the car to discharge static electricity…


ps. Although if there are any female Dopers out there limber enough to get out of a car and never touch it I would be interested in meeting you :sunglasses:

It never fails.

Karma rushes swift and sure from the gods to ensure that any post that makes fun of an editor has typos in it.

Preview is my friend.

Thanks a lot, MsWhatsit. That link was in the original OP, which was apparently eaten by the server overnight. This whole thread was inspired by what I saw on King 5 last night. The OP was there when I went to bed, but now it’s gone.

In the news story, they said that you can pick up a static charge by rubbing against the vinyl seat. They had footage from the security camera at the gas station, showing that the guy got out and started his fill-up, leaving his door open. He then sat down to get his cell from the car, and got back up without having to touch the door. When he got back to where the nozzle was in his car, he apparently threw a spark which cause a flareup, burning his hands and shoulder (the shoulder had second degree burns, because his plastic jacket melted onto his skin).

It just seemed to me that they didn’t adequately explain why they thought the cell phone had anything to do with his static charge. He’d have gotten it if he’d been getting a candy bar, or an inflatable sex doll, or any other object that required him to rub against the seat (but not the metal parts of the car) while retrieving it. At least that’s how it seemed from the way they described it.

What I asked in the OP was: Why are cell phones prohibited at gas pumps and was the cell phone actually responsible for the accident in the news story? Looks like it is being answered, even without the question actually being on top of the thread. Thanks, all.

Once again, it appears that I’m an idiot. This thread is almost identical in title to the one I created after watching the news last night, so I assumed that my OP had been blown away. After I posted the above, I noticed that Barking Spider had posted here a couple hours before I created my thread.

So, my thread still exists, but has sunk down with only one reply. That’s fine, let it go and continue to post here. I’ll post this link just by way of adding Nukeman’s excellent reply to the edification of all.

Cell phones at gas pumps

They probably meant, “Touch a metal part of the door…”. If your car is anything like my truck, the parts of the door you need to touch when getting out are vinyl or plastic. But sometimes, when I’m climbing out, I’ll happen to touch a metal screw in the well of the armrest, and I get a pretty good-sized static spark.

Still, you’re right, they should have been clear about it, and it reads pretty goofy as written.

How is leaving your motor running dangerous? I’ve alway been under the impression that you should shut off your car engine due to environmental concerns…

I was always under the impression that the warning to turn your motor off is to prevent morons from getting out of their car and wondering what’s happening when it slowly drives away… :smiley:

I can’t verify the legitimacy of “don’t use your cell phone at the gas pump” rule, but when I was working at a gas station a few months ago, the rule was that if we saw someone talking on their cell phone while pumping gas, we had to shut off their pump and explain over our intercom why, and ask nicely for the person to shut off the phone. We had more than a few angry customers because of this, but I was always told to tell them that it was a (Michigan) state law. I had never heard of that law, but I was doing what my boss told me. So next time it happens to you, just think about the guy behond the counter who has probably had to tell people to shut off their phones all day, and had angry customers telling him off.