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Automobile Seat Heater Burn Hazard

Friday, February 02, 2018By Richard Alexander and Nina Shapirshteyn

Automobile safety advocates are still concerned about the potential burn hazards associated with heated seats. Once only a luxury car item, seat heaters are becoming standard in many new makes and models. Unfortunately, most of these heating systems still don’t have appropriate temperature thresholds. This means that seats can get dangerously hot and present burn injury hazards to drivers and passengers. Seat heaters can pose a particularly high risk to those with paralysis or nerve damage issues due to their inability to feel when a seat is getting too hot. Data shows that some heaters can get as hot as 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Sitting on a seat that hot, for a prolonged car trip, can leave victims with severe burn injuries and damage do underlying tissues.

Continuous Complaints About Malfunctioning Seat Heaters

According to Edmunds, between January 1, 2005 and March 31, 2011, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) got 138 complaints about malfunctioning seat heaters. Reports varied from a burning smell and seeing smoke to visible flames. About half of those incidents involved fire. While actual burning flames are a very serious concern, the biggest risk is to those people with reduced sensation in their lower extremities. Any type of paralysis or reduced sensation in one’s lower extremities can pose extreme dangers when using seat heaters.

Temperature Thresholds on Seat Heaters

While for many people, it may seem intuitive to turn a seat heater off or down when it’s getting too warm, that’s just not possible for many people, including children and those who have reduced sensation or nerve damage in their lower extremities. In these and all other cases, temperature thresholds are absolutely critical in preventing potentially devastating burn injuries.

Improving Safety for Automobile Owners

Advocates are still calling on automakers to implement standardized temperature thresholds in seat heaters. Temperature thresholds on seat heaters can prevent unnecessary burn injuries to drivers and passengers. Additionally, wiring and heating systems need to be designed and manufactured in a way that doesn’t pose a risk of burn or fire hazard to consumers.

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