The safety of car seat heaters is becoming an issue in the automotive industry, as reports of severe burning among paralyzed and other disabled drivers are circulating. Lobbyists are now urging federal regulators to take industry-wide steps to eliminate the problem
The problem of defective seat heaters, while not often considered a significant contributor to car accidents, certainly has potential to distract a driver’s attention from the road by creating discomfort.
The problem with car seat heaters, though, is not a new one. According to sources, an article listed on PubMed reports that an 8 year old case in which a 48-year-old person suffered from third degree burns after a first drive in a new car. It has been advised in the past that persons with decreased mobility avoid using car seat heaters.
The problem with some car seat heaters, as advocates see it, is that victims often don’t realize they’re being burned till too late. Especially individuals whose legs are desensitized to pain, high seat temperatures can pose problems. A person in a wheelchair may take months to heal, leaving their skin integrity negatively affected for the rest of their lives.
While some automakers limit seat heaters to 105 degree, a limit recommended by doctors, others install seat heaters that go substantially above that recommendation. Some reach temperatures of 160 degrees, according to doctors and safety experts. When a seat heater gets to 120 degrees, it can quickly cause third-degree burns.
Source: USA Today, “Car seat heaters become safety target,” Jayne O’Donnell, 21 Feb 2011.
Product Reviews, “Car seat heaters, safety is old news,” Gary Johnson, 23 Feb 2011.