The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is looking into claims that seat heaters may pose a danger to passengers with lower-body sensory defects. Johnson Clifton Larson & Schaller, an Oregon law firm that has been involved in 25 cases related to seat-heater burns, says that it knows of at least 150 victims of the convenience feature.
According to USA Today:
Greenhalgh, chief of burns at Shriners Hospital for Children in Northern California, says 105 degrees is the maximum temperature a seat should ever reach.
Greenhalgh, co-author of a 2003 study on the issue, has treated a patient who received third-degree burns after 20 minutes in a car seat where the heater reached 120 degrees in one spot. Medical literature shows these burns can occur within 10 minutes at 120 degrees.
One victim, Clayton Ford, was severely burned after he mistakenly switched on the seat heaters in his 2005 Chevrolet Silverado while operating its windows. Ford, a paraplegic, withstood two and a half hours of the seat heaters on high before realizing his mistake.
While many auto manufacturers print seat-heater warnings in their vehicles’ owner manuals, further actions may be required to prevent harm to passengers. However, the NHTSA says that it will need to conclude its investigation before determining what those actions may be.
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