More cars were designated as Top Safety Picks than ever before, showing a marked improvement over last year. A total of 115 vehicles for the 2012 model year received the Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, or IIHS.
The designation is awarded to vehicles with high levels of crash protection in the four most common types of crashes -- front, aide, rollover and rear. Last year, just 66 vehicles initially received the designation, with many vehicles missing the mark due to less-than-perfect rollover ratings. Because the IIHS test vehicles throughout the year, the number eventually climbed as automakers redesigned roofs to make them stronger.
For 2012, there are 69 cars, 38 SUVs, five minivans and three pickups that received the IIHS' Top Safety Pick designation. At least one model from every major automaker was in the group, while Subaru was the only manufacturer to have a Top Safety Pick designation for all of its five models. Notably both the 2012 Honda Civic and the 2012 Toyota Camry, the two best-selling cars on the market, received the designation. It is a first for the Camry, while the Civic has not been on the list since 2009.
Cars are designated Top Safety Picks after undergoing a series of crash tests conducted by the IIHS. Vehicles that receive the highest score of "good" in each crash test receive the designation. The crash test scores are useful for consumers who are interested in buying a safer car and can also be an indicator of lower auto insurance rates (compared with a lower scoring competitor), since how well a car performs in a crash correlates to the amount of the insurance claim.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.