by Al Sacco

Why gas stations want you to turn off your phone — but nobody ever does

Aug 24, 2016
Consumer ElectronicsMobileSmall and Medium Business

Many U.S. gas stations print warning on their pumps that explicitly instruct drivers to turn off their phones. But no one does. Here's why

In the latest installment of the”Things-We-Think-We-Know, but-Aren’t-Sure — and-Don’t-Really-Care-Anyway” series, I answer the pressing question: Do I really have to turn my phone off at the gas station? (For the last groundbreaking entry, read, “What the hell is an airport cell phone lot?!?”)

Why do gas pumps tell me to turn my phone off?

In the late 90s, some petroleum bigwig must have heard rumors of cell-phone related explosions in far-off lands, such as India and Australia, and decided that despite a lack of concrete facts — or even reports of these incidents from reputable news outlets — oil companies had better cover their gasses and at least provide some sort of cautionary warning. You know, just in case. The industry was apparently worried that sparks from mobile device batteries could ignite fumes and blow gas stations — and customers — to tiny bits.

cell phone gas station pumps Al Sacco

Do I really need to turn my phone off at the pump?

Quick answer: Nope. If gas companies were legitimately worried about cell-phone gasplodeageddon, they would enforce the no-phone-use policies.

Oh, and the U.S. FCC, the American Petrol Institute and the Cellular Telecommunication Industries Association (CTIA) all say you have nothing to worry about, according to

In other words, nobody ever turns off their phones at the gas station, despite printed warnings, because absolutely no proof exists that mobile-phone batteries present any sort of danger of causing explosion.