The dangers of seat failures are especially high in third-row seats that are located at the very rear of the vehicle, often only inches from the rear bumper. Mike Brownlee, former head of the NHTSA defect investigations and rules compliance committee says that injuries and death will rise in rear-end collisions as these seats become more prevalent.
In a rear crash, the seat back acts as the restraint system in the manner that a seatbelt and an airbag do in a a frontal collision. If the seat back is so rigid that it stays totally upright in a rear-end collision, the passenger is slammed forward at impact and then backwards in to the seat. Sever whiplash can result.
If the seat is too forgiving and bends too far backward, the passenger could fly out of the seat into other areas of the vehicle or out of the vehicle all together.
This problem is compounded in the marketing driven decision to place rear seats so close to the bumper and the manufacturers know it. According to Ford Motor analysis, when a minivan with a third row occupant is rear-ended, HALF OF THE TIME the occupant is killed. Most adults won’t even fit into these seats; therefore, those killed are children. Vehicles with relatively little space include the Buick Rendezvous, 8 inches and the Ford Explorer that has 13 inches of space between the seat and the back of the vehicle.