ARNING! Heated car seats can be hazardous to your health.
Electric heated car seats are now commonplace. The idea sounds great: Hop in your car on a cold day, hit the seat heater switch, and luxurious heat warms and soothes you as you drive. But heated seats have been known to malfunction and become dangerously hot. For your average driver this isn’t a problem — if the seat starts to feel too warm, hit the off switch. But for people with paralysis or sensory deficit, this is the recipe for serious, possibly life-threatening burns.
Derek Johnson, an attorney for the Eugene, Ore., law firm of Johnson, Clifton, Larson and Schaller, has been representing people with paralysis who have been seriously burned. The firm has identified 63 people from various states who have suffered serious burns from heated seats. Considering there are hundreds of thousands of vehicles with heated seats in the United States, Johnson thinks the problem may be widespread.
Ron Devine of Sacramento, Calif., is one of Johnson’s clients. Devine, 54, has been a T10-11 paraplegic for 37 years. He prides himself on staying healthy and active.
In January 2006, Devine went out to dinner with his son, then drove home in his 1999 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. The vehicle came equipped with heated seats, but Devine never thought of using them. Somehow, the seat heater button got turned on. “I got home and was transferring into bed and saw two wet spots on my wheelchair cushion. Then I moved and saw two more wet spots where I had been sitting on the bed. I reached back and felt blisters on both sides of my rear and upper thigh. I was devastated,” recalls Devine.