Re: 3rd Row Safety
Here is my two cents. It is derived from things I have seen and is in no way the gospel for safety.
Sorry it is so long but driving is something I enjoy doing, competitively, as an instructor, and for recreation.
If most of your driving is done in town, where speed limits are 45 mph or lower, the chance of an actual car rear ending you AT 45 mph is slim. From accidents I have seen, I work as a full time firefighter, most of all vehicles do well in this speed range during a rear end collision. As speeds (speed at actual impact) increse above 50 mph the effects seem to be more severe. At speeds above 50 mph the crumple zone will increase in size so that the back seats (3rd row) of the car will ride forward into the middle seats (2nd row). If you have passengers in the third row they are now pinned to the second row of seats unless the impact was so great that both sets of seats started moving forward into the 1st row of seats. These types of collisions truly look like an accordian. If you find yourself in traffic that has come to a sudden stop and the guy or gal behind you is not paying attention and you know you are going to get hit. Drive over, through, or around the person in front of you to reduce the speed difference between you and the person that is going to hit you. 5 mph goes a long way in reducing damages and injuries.
Things that might help:
Ensure that your child seats are propely installed. Take your car by a local fire station or state police hub and have them show you how to properly install a child seat. Then do it yourself while they watch.
Make sure all loose items are properly stored. Book bags and such should be kept on the floor behind the 1st row. Little loose items should be put into the glove box or center flip up bin.
Just basic stuff that could really make a huge difference in a collision.
If you have the towing package or a rear receiver hitch this will help distribute the forces of a collision and provide additional crumple zone protection.
Things I do. (read as I will assume no responsibility if you do them and have a bad outcome during a collision).
If the kids are in the third row, lower the second row of seats.
If the kids are in the second row, keep the third row up.
I have two children ages 2 , 6 and one on the way. I always try to get them to ride in the middle row. It is just provides more room in case you do get hit. Personally I do not have an issue driving on the interstate with the kids in the third row. There are more "escape routes" to avoid a rear end collision on the interstate versus city driving.
Hope this helps,