If you are a driver or passenger with reduced or no sensation below the waist because you are disabled or are diabetic, the answer is maybe. At present, there are no standards for how hot the heaters can get, but testing has shown that some heaters can generate temperatures as high as 150 degrees. Temperatures like that can cause severe burns in minutes and some vehicle occupants can be unaware that they are being burned.
Sean Kane, of Safety Research and Strategies, Inc., wrote a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in February detailing the problem and requesting action. He wrote similar letters to the National Mobility Equipment Dealers and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers requesting that they look at the issue and possible solutions. NHTSA was the only organization to respond but the response is encouraging.
The goal is to develop an industry standard for specifics such as maximum allowable temperatures and use of cut-off technology that shut the heaters down once the maximum temperatures have been reached. Car manufacturers currently use their own standards for the heaters, but an industry standard should not be difficult to formulate. Human heat tolerances are well known and the use of cut-off technology exists in many consumer products. Think hair dryers, curling irons, electric blankets, coffee makers, electric space heaters and electric stoves to name a few. If car-makers turn their attention to the problem, it will be an easy one to solve.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.