use of mobile phones
  • 26 febrero, 2014
  • 2 min

Why is the use of mobile phones at petrol stations prohibited?

One of the most widespread myths is the danger of using mobile phones at service stations. What does science have to say about the real risk of explosions or fires caused by their use?

One of the things that we should do, but often forget to do, is turn off our mobile phones when we are at a petrol station. This is what article 115 of the General Traffic Regulations says, which literally prohibits “keeping the engine, lights, as well as electrical systems such as the radio or devices that emit electromagnetic radiation turned on”.

According to Traffic regulations, the latter case would apply to mobile phones. At this point, we all know that these devices are low-power radio-frequency transmitters (between 450 and 2700 MHz), with a peak power value that ranges between 0.1 and 2 watts. Can they really have an impact in a petrol station?

using mobile phones

As explained in Naukas, the two greatest dangers related to the use of mobile phones are the possibility of explosion or fire. Could something like that happen if you keep your phone turned on at the petrol station? Science says no, because these devices emit very little energy  (less than 1 W/cm2).

The only way that a mobile phone could generate a spark at a petrol station would be due to a defective battery, which is unlikely and could also occur in the case of the car’s own battery. While the possibility is remote, there is a low risk that an explosion could occur from the gases that are emitted by the hose and not from the fuel.

The truth is that the use of mobile phones is probably more dangerous as a source of distraction than as the possible source of an explosion. According to a report from the  Petroleum Equipment Institute, there are no documented incidents at petrol stations related to fires or explosions caused by the use of mobile phones.

In short, the scientific evidence does not support the hypothesis that these devices cause serious accidents. However, you should remember that using mobiles at petrol stations can also result in people being run over, carelessness with the car and other pedestrians, etc. For this reason, using them at service stations is not recommended, and you can also avoid a possible 90 euro fine.

Images | Phil Campbell (Flickr), Rama (Wikimedia)