Safe Family: Static electricity at the gas pump

By: Ryan Loyd Email
By: Ryan Loyd Email

Static electricity can be responsible for a bad hair day or causing you to shock yourself and other people, but it can also be responsible for a lot worse. Ryan Loyd explains in today's Safe Family report.

A normal, everyday activity like driving is a great chance for static electricity to build up. Many people believe this static electricity builds up with the vehicle's movements, but instead it's the friction between you and your seat.

Officials say it's a good idea to discharge the static when you get out of the car by touching metal.

"That helps to prevent a static charge from occurring," Sherman Fire Chief Jeff Jones explains.

Many people already know the physics behind static electricity, but did you know that not discharging static electricity while pumping gas can result in a very bad accident?

"It can cause the fumes to ignite," Jones says.

In 1999, it was thought that the only motor vehicle fires that resulted from pumping gas started because of an open flame like smoking or a spark from the engine, but since 2000, about 150 fires appear to have been caused by static electricity.

You can avoid problems if you remain outside while refueling. Don't get back inside if it's too cold. Don't talk on your cell phone or use other electronic equipment.

"Stop pumping when the pump shuts off automatically. Look around and watch other people to see if they are making the situation unsafe."

Pumping gas only takes a few minutes. Play it safe at the pump.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Danny Location: Alaska on Feb 28, 2008 at 10:38 AM
    Static electricity is the most likely cause of the fires. Cell phones don't cause them--not a single documented case of vehicle fire (while pumpin gas) can be attributed to cell phone use.
  • by Boo Location: Sherman on Feb 1, 2008 at 12:28 PM
    Still riding around with your tailgait down too???
  • by Anonymous on Jan 31, 2008 at 04:10 PM
    wow some people are idiots. Revolving thier information on a tv show. Ive had a few things happen to me that were disproven by mythbusters. Now im not saying i belive cell phones can do that. But better safe than sorry. But im still going to sit in my car when its 10 degrees outside
  • by JC Location: Denison on Jan 31, 2008 at 03:40 PM
    According to Snopes: There has NEVER been a documented case of a cell phone starting a gas pump fire and thats with 16 million Americans refueling every day
  • by JC Location: Denison on Jan 31, 2008 at 12:52 PM
    Myth Busters and snopes.com have debunked the cell phone myth.
  • by Heather Location: Sherman on Jan 31, 2008 at 11:50 AM
    I saw this on Mythbusters. They proved it wrong! It's an urban legend.You would have to have a huge, huge humdinger of a spark! Like a bolt of lightening...
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