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Car seat heaters have potential to cause serious burns, P. 2

February 25, 2011

In our previous post, we began looking at the safety of car seat heaters and the potential risks to drivers. Perhaps surprisingly, there are numerous reports of drivers experiencing skin burns as a result of excessively hot seat heaters, sometimes without the driver even realizing it.

We noted in our last post that excessive seat heat could potentially create the risk of car accident as a result of distracted driving. Excessively hot car seat heaters also present issues of products liability. Since the mid-1980s, there have been nine recalls of seat heaters that had the ability to get so hot as to constitute a fire hazard.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not automatically consider a seat heater defective if its heat level goes beyond the level of human tolerance. It is only when they become a fire hazard or when there is serious injury or an accumulation of complaints that the administration begins to really pay attention.

But some believe seat heats should be recalled which have the ability to scorch the seat or burn vulnerable drivers, particularly disabled persons who have decreased sensitivity in their legs.

In a letter to the NHTSA and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, burn treatment doctors and other advocates are lobbying to treat excessively hot seats as defective, and to set maximum temperatures for seat warmers and install automatic timers.

The NHTSA said in response to the letter that it looks to the frequency and severity of a problem in assessing its risk, but declined to comment on the lobbyists’ specific requests.

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.

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