If you’ve topped up your car with gas recently, you likely saw a sign saying you can’t use your cellphone by the pump. A commonly-held belief is that cellphone use at a gas station may actually cause the fuel to ignite.
However, a new report commissioned by the Canadian Fuels Association suggests that the possibility of ignition is actually significantly lower than you might think. As a result, Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) is planning to let vehicle owners use their phones at the pump.
That’s because a new report from U.S. engineering consulting firm BakerRisk found that there is a “one chance in 10 billion” that a cellphone could ignite gas vapours while refuelling a car.
“There is a very low probability of cell phones being able to ignite even an ideal flammable gas mixture in air,” said BakerRisk in its report. “There have been no fires reported at gas stations attributed to cell phone ignition in the last 20 years.”
Ontario intends to allow cellphones to be used at the pump for the purposes of mobile payments. However, the TSSA warns drivers to avoid using their phones when actually refuelling their cars, noting that accidents like spilling gas become more common when drivers aren’t paying attention. The TSSA didn’t confirm when, exactly, this policy will take effect.
It also remains to be seen if other provinces will also allow phones to be used at gas stations.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t the only cell phone use-related announcement to just come out of Ontario. The province also announced that it will ban cellphone use in the classrooms starting in the 2019-2020 school year.