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To The Bottom Of The Problem: NHTSA To Investigate Seat Warmer Hazards

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On: Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 9:28AM | By: Chris Weiss

To The Bottom Of The Problem: NHTSA To Investigate Seat Warmer Hazards

Seat heaters are one of those luxurious, little options that you invest in if your average year includes numerous mornings of scraping frost off your windshield and warming your car via remote start. You could live without them, but they're a nice little comfort that takes the chill out of those icy, leather seats.

But, there may be a problem with your backside pampering. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA ) is investigating whether seat heaters pose a significant threat of burning your cheeks. If so, expect to see a rash of seat-warmer recalls over the next few years.

The NHTSA will analyze its data on seat-heater burns and decide if the frequency and severity of injuries are enough to pose an "an unreasonable risk to safety." The move comes several weeks after a group of burn doctors and safety advocates requested action from the government agency.

According to one of the doctors involved, David Greenhalgh, seats should never exceed 105 F. However, the doctor has documented burn cases in which temperatures of 120 F gave a driver third degree burns within 20 minutes. In fact, research indicates that heaters can exceed 150 percent of Greenhalgh's suggested maximum, firing up to over 160 F. Those with paralysis and sensory deficit disorders are at particularly high risk, since they have a diminished sense of feeling that prevents them from shutting off overly hot seat heaters.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers is discussing possible remedies from the production end with its members. Possible solutions include automatic timed shut-offs and maximum-temperature cut-offs.

I've never actually had a car with seat heaters, but I'm surprised this is an issue. You would think that manufacturers would have installed effective temperature monitors before they ever offered seat heats as an option, seeing as how much more important preventing serious injury is than warming your tush.


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