The question keeps popping up: Will using your cell phone at a gas pump cause an explosion?
A new video released last week put the issue front and center. A driver in Versailles, Kentucky pumped fuel into his car while using his cell phone. A few seconds later the video shows a rapid and dramatic explosion.
Watch the video below:
In this specific example, the Versailles Police Department did not point to the cell phone as the cause of the blaze. In fact, when Kentucky State Fire Marshalls investigated the case, they found something more troubling than the driver's cell phone: he left the car running while he was pumping his gas.
But, if you focus just on cell phone use, it's usually not the lone culprit, experts say. But it could be a contributing factor in what could potentially be a dangerous situation (if multiple things occur). As the officer points out in the video above, static electricity, helped in some part by the driver getting back in and out of the vehicle, can be a problem.
When our own Josh Max reported on this back in November, he pointed to not just cell phones, but any electronic device (such as an MP3 player) as a generator of static electricity.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, cell phones fall into the “electronic materials” classification, which means you should leave your phone in the car as you gas up. Static electricity is the villain, which can ignite vapors often seen near the nozzle of the pump as gas flows into your car. But there are also unseen vapors a few inches or more away, which are equally as flammable, say experts. Fire codes prohibit cell phone use near pumps and many stations post signs showing a cell phone with a slash through it.
“Cell phones continue to be cited as causing fires at the pump in e-mails circulating on the Internet,” says the Petroleum Equipment Institute. “So far, we have been unable to document any incidents that were sparked by a cellular telephone. In fact, many researchers have tried to ignite fuel vapors with a cell phone and failed.”
A recent poll conducted on AOL Autos revealed that about 25% of drivers say they use their cell phone while pumping gas.
The long and short: a cell phone is an electronic device. It's best to keep it (or any other electronic device, such as an MP3 player) away from the gas pump when you're fueling up.
And, in case we need to remind you: turn your car off before pumping fuel.