NHTSA To Investigate Seat Heaters Over Burn Risk

By: Carl Malek

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now trying to decide whether seat heaters pose an “unreasonable risk to safety” according to USA Today.

Currently, the government agency is reviewing multiple reports of burns that have been associated with seat heater use. According to the agency’s report those with sensory defects of the lower body such as lower body paralysis are in danger of being seriously burned by the heaters without even realizing it.

People with these types of disabilities either cannot feel when the warmers are too hot or only begin to feel discomfort and pain from overheating seat warmers when its too late for anything to be done. Many modern automobiles have multiple safeguards in place to make sure the warmers do not become dangerously hot for consumers such as automatic timers that turn the warmers off and other measures, but some seat warmers have been recorded reaching temperatures as high as 160 degrees.  Doctors have petitioned the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers to disconnect the feature on vehicles owned by individuals with the aforementioned sensory issues to protect them from serious injury in the event the warmers are left on for long periods of time.

In one particular incident involving a seat equipped with warmers, a paraplegic man was severely burned after sitting in his Chevrolet Silverado for two and a half hours with the seat warmers on the high setting. The man accidentally activated the heaters on while trying to roll down the windows.

General Motors has released a response in its defense, which states that the company added warnings to their manuals regarding seat heater use back in 2010 and that all 2011 model year vehicles have the warnings in place.  It remains to be seen whether critics will be satisfied by warnings alone, or whether additional safeguards – or de-activation of the heaters for affected individuals – will be required.

Author: Carl Malek

Carl Malek is Autosavant’s resident German car fanatic and follower of all things General Motors. Carl first entered the world of automotive journalism as a freelance photographer during his freshman year of college before making the switch to automotive writing several years later. Carl developed an interest in cars at an early age, which helped him overcome the challenges of a learning disability in mathematics. In addition to writing for Autosavant community, Carl also contributes to many car forums and enjoys attending automotive events in the Metro Detroit area with his family. Carl’s message for others with learning disorders is to believe in yourself, be persistent, and face all challenges head on.

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