Malfunctioning Car Seat Heaters Can Pose a Serious Threat

Driving in the evening
Evening drivi in the big city

Malfunctioning car seat heaters are an increasing problem, especially for paralyzed individuals. People with limited or no feeling in their lower extremities can unknowingly suffer severe burns when car seat heaters overheat. For these people, this issue is a matter of serious concern.

As reported in this USA Today article, a 2003 study highlighted the need for tighter controls and regulation of car seat heaters and the risks posed when these devices malfunction:

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.

In part because of the concerns raised by Greenhalgh, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration plans to review the issue and determine if any actions need to be taken in regard to car seat heaters:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Wednesday that it will analyze its data to see how widespread the problem of burns from car seat heaters is and whether heaters that can burn people pose “an unreasonable risk to safety.”

In the meantime, in order to avoid serious injuries, it is recommended that people with lower-body sensory deficits disconnect the heaters. Additionally, automobile manufacturers are being asked to consider setting a maximum temperature for heaters and install timers that automatically turn them off, steps that some automakers have already taken.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law ( handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 600-0000 and