no cellphones at gas stations?

How come they have signs telling you
“Please refrain from the use of cellular
phones” at gas stations?

Because a Russian ICBM could zero in on your signal.

For the same reason they prohibit smoking and ask to turn off your engine. There is a remote risk that the spark made when you key the phone could ignite gas fumes. Same goes for a walkie-talkie.
Why risk it?

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …Unknown

      • I was once told by no less than the local fire chief that state law prohibits lit cigarettes near gas pumps, even though it is not possible to ignite gasoline with a lit cigarette. - MC

It’s true that you can’t light gasoline with a cigarette (I’ve seen butts extenguished in a cup of gasoline) but gasoline FUMES can be quite easily lit with a cig if the concentrations are high enough. Spilt gas and temps in the 90s or 100s would make it quite possible for disaster to ensue!

I think the whole thing is fabricated so you’ll use the pay phone while your tank is filling and your pockets emptying.

Seriously, I’ve never seen nor heard of this prohibition. A spark from keying the phone?
Better they should have a ramp attendant attach a ground strap to your vehicle when you drive up.

I suppose you can’t listen to your radio, either. Same concept.

¾È ³ç, ÁÖ µ¿ ÀÏ

Sorry. Maybe not. A radio doesn’t transmit.

¾È ³ç, ÁÖ µ¿ ÀÏ

It’s the same concept on why you can’t use your regular telephone if there is a gas leak. Natual gas and gasoline are very volatile. While the probability of a spock escaping the phone and igniting the flames are small, the danger is still there.

Anyway, can’t you wait five minutes until you make the call, so you can be a hazard on the road like everyone else.

I was once told by no less than the local fire chief that state law prohibits lit cigarettes near gas pumps, even though it is not possible to ignite gasoline with a lit cigarette. - MC

If your fire chief told you that, MC, I’m afraid he/she was feeding you a load of crap. If the air/fuel ratio is right, and you take a drag or a breeze fans the fire a cigarette is perfectly capable of igniting gasoline.
“Don’t try this at home”, eh?
mangeorge (Who has worked in oilfields and refineries all his life)

      • The reason he gave was that gasoline requires a spark to ignite. Heat, even glowing BBQ coals won’t ignite it; the gas just vaporizes and blows away. I worked at a gas station for several years (ugh) and I saw people get out of their cars many times and toss cigs into spots of spilled gas on the pavement and never once did the gas ignite.
  • I meant to try this with some gas in a bucket and a lit cigarette, but I never got around to it. - MC
      • And now that I think of it, if you squirt charcoal lighter fluid on glowing coals, it does put them out - for the fluid to ignite there has to be a flame. - MC

You absolutely can ignite gasoline with a cigarette ember. I have no idea of the chemistry or environmental conditions required, but I’ve seen it happen. It may be highly unlikely, but I reitterate, it CAN happen.

I doubt very seriously that the concern over cell phones is anything more than either paranoia or misdirection (gas station attendants don’t like to see people out talking on their cell phones, not paying their bill immediately, and blocking the pumps). BTW, cell phones use Hall effect switches for the keyboards, which cannot generate a spark.

In the same vein as the original question, why can’t you use your cell phone around blasting areas? The detonation is done through simple wiring, not radio transmitters. This is one that never made sense to me either.

Are they making cell phones out of Vulcanized rubber now?

And MC - I don’t suggest you squirt gasoline on lit charcoal. The volatility of gasoline is much greater than that of lighter fluid, and the flash point is way way lower.

I’d hate to see anyone undergo skin grafts in the name of Straight Dope science projects.

This topic is addressed on the Urban Legends website. (Dont’ have the URL, but it’s somewhere else on this board, under a question about the Newlywed game.)

The bottom line is that the cellphone maufacturers recommend that you not use the phone at a gas station. There have been no verified reports of this setting off an explosion (only lots of phony stories), and the chances of an actual fire are very low. However, the fact that is slight is no indication that you should do it on a regular basis. It’s like pulling the handle on a slot machine: you probably won’t hit the jackpot, but you might.

Now stop that! You made me laugh out loud and that’s a sure tipper that I’m goofing off in this dismal place…

Motorola Star Tac: The Escape of Spock…

[cue eerie space music…]

>However, the fact that is slight is no
>indication that you should do it on a
>regular basis.
This is absolutly ridiculous, on a dry day your car is VERY likely to pick static charge large enough to give you a good zap when you reach for the fuel door, and but then you probably have the fuel nozzle in your hand. I never heard ant warning to discharge your car before reaching for the pump. I would think it a lot more likely that cell phone might screw up those “Mobile Speedpass” autobilling transponders.

BTW the urban legend site is

On a fire service email list I subscribe to, this same topic has come up in the past week or two. This email pretty much summed up the concensus of the posters to the list:
Subj: Re: Gas station fires & cell phones
Date: 7/13/1999 1:37:35 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: (Mike Weihman)

Diana Robinson wrote:
> Some time ago there were some posts about gas station fires caused by
> customers using cell phones near the pumps. If you have specific
> information (place & date) of any of these incidents, please reply.
> Also, am told IBM and Exxon have put out related warnings - anyone
> seen them?


I posted an article to the USENET group misc.emerg-services on 6/29
about this topic, and there was a bit of discussion about it. You
should be able to find the discussion on DejaNews, or you can email me
for details.
In a nutshell, I had read an article in RCR News, a wireless industry
trade rag, about a plan by Exxon (as well as others like Shell and
Arco) to prohibit the use of cellphones in gasoline filling stations
in the USA because of the risk of fire. The article said that no such
occurrances had ever been documented anywhere, but that the risk was

Discussion centered on how remote that chance is (consensus: extremely
remote), and the multitude of equally or more dangerous electrical
devices that are not addressed by these companies (2 way radios,
flashlights, etc). It was also mentioned that gas stations make no
provision to prevent a FAR more likely event, which is a spark from
nozzle to car due to electrostatic discharge. (Or the more obvious
yet continuing risks of people filling with lit cigarettes and / or
running engines.)

It seemed to be a decision that was based perhaps in business but not
in engineering. That said, it probably is not a good idea to use
phones (or any other electrical device, unless it’s certified as
Intrinsically Safe) around flammable vapors.

Hope this helps.



I can think of no more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine - Kurt Vonnegut