Our friends at CTIA confirm what I always suspected: that cell phone signals really aren’t likely to ignite gasoline. In fact, there is no documented case of a cell phone ignited gasoline fire. That myth has been thoroughly busted by the “Mythbusters” (Part1 Part2). This urban legend is also covered by Snopes.
Static electric charge CAN trigger an explosion however. Typically, this will happen when someone starts pumping gas, gets back into the car, and then hops out again when the tank is full. If the first point at which you dissipate the static charge you’ve collected is next to the gas nozzle, you might ignite the vapors.
After having completed this post Sunday night, I learned a high school friend, Coke Brown, died Friday from a gasoline fire in his car. The world will be a less interesting place for Coke’s passing.