Can You Start a Fire With Your Cell Phone While Pumping Gas?

The myth about starting a fire with your cell phone while you’re pumping gas has persisted over the years. But it’s just that: a myth. It began when cell phones still had antennae because they could produce sparks. So unless you’re still rocking a vintage mobile phone with an antenna (no judgment), you won’t start a fire with your cell phone at the gas station. However, using any mobile device at the gas station could still pose a safety issue. You might not start a fire, but there are other dangers, which Reader’s Digest outlined in an article.

Using your cell phone distracts you

Distracted driving is one of the biggest causes of accidents. Using your cell phone, such as for texting, is one of the main distractions when driving. In fact, in many states, it’s illegal and can get you pulled over.

Using your cell phone while driving isn’t the only time it’s distracting, You could walk into people, run into light poles, or miss the last few stairs. Generally, these kinds of mishaps just produce humorous videos for the internet, but more serious accidents can, and do, occur.

Being distracted at the gas station can be dangerous as well. Driving away while the pump is still in your tank happens more often than you might think. And though you might not rip out the entire gas pump like in the movies, it’s still dangerous and can be pricey to repair. 

Gas stations can be busy places, with lots of cars, pedestrians, and fuel trucks. Being distracted by your cell phone could lead to hitting another car, a person, or a highly flammable fuel truck. And that might actually start a fire or cause an explosion. At the very least, it would be messy, embarrassing, and expensive. Hitting a pedestrian or another car would be equally bad.

The signs say to stay off your phone

The signs telling you not to use your cell phone at the pump are there for a reason. They’re required by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Fire and fuel don’t mix very well. And if you have kids, disregarding warnings doesn’t set the best example.

Just because it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean it isn’t possible

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Technically, cell phones cause static electricity, and static electricity could cause a spark, and a spark could ignite gasoline. However, there’s no proof anyone has ever used a cell phone to spark a fire. According to the Petroleum Equipment Institute, researchers have tried. The hosts of the popular Discovery Channel show MythBusters, Jamie and Adam, even attempted it in one episode. So although it’s improbable your cell phone would start a fire at the gas pump, it’s not impossible. And it’s probably not a chance you’d want to take.

Using a cell phone while pumping gas is not something anyone should be doing. You probably wouldn’t start a fire unless you used that vintage antenna phone, but there are other dangers that can have severe consequences. Distracted pumping can be just as hazardous as distracted driving.

Besides, there are lots of other ways to stay entertained while waiting for your tank to fill. People-watching, cleaning your windows, or watching funny commercials on the little screen at the pump are good alternatives. Or you could calculate how much more expensive gas is today compared with prices back when you had that antenna cell phone.