Who Decides Which Cars are Safest?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety helps insurance companies and consumers evaluate vehicles based on their safety features. The organization is on a mission to reduce accidents, fatalities, and injuries by rewarding auto manufacturers with high marks for outstanding innovations in driver and passenger safety.

Unlike the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the IIHS tests for offset crashes, rather than broad frontal crashes. This better displays the weaknesses in a car's impact capabilities. The five types of crashes tested by the IIHS include:

  • Moderate overlap frontal test
  • Small overlap frontal test
  • Side impact test
  • Rear crash protection, or head restraint test
  • Roof strength evaluation

Based on how well each car protects crash dummies in these tests, the IIHS assigns a score from "Poor" to "Good." Cars that score exceptionally well, or include extra safety innovations above and beyond industry standards, can receive the highest safety award the IIHS offers: The Top Safety Pick + Award. This is essentially an A+ mark, coveted by auto makers for its selling power.

So Which Cars Scored an A+ this past year?

The list is for 2013, and these cars scored top IIHS honors for driver and passenger safety:

  • Honda Accord 2-door: The Accord is no stranger to safety awards, which is part of its longstanding appeal. The sporty 2013 2-door version is no different.
  • Honda Accord 4-door: Just like the 2-door Accord, this model keeps all five passengers protected from impact, with side airbags and sensitive restraint systems.
  • Chrysler 200 4-door: The 200 is a scaled-down model of the Chrysler 300, with no reductions in safety.
  • Dodge Avenger: The Avenger has been slowly gaining popularity since its reintroduction in 2008. Its new safety rating could boost sales even further.
  • Ford Fusion: The Fusion offers a lot of features and top shelf safety technology at a low price.
  • Kia Optima: While it has been a best-seller in the past, the new Optima is sportier than ever, with new safety innovations on top of style.
  • Nissan Altima 4-door: The Altima continues to outsell the competition, with a few new extras on the latest model.
  • Suzuki Kizashi: The Kizashi is no longer manufactured by Subaru, as of this year, but it scored highly on 2013 IIHS tests, and would make a great used car option.
  • Subaru Legacy: This year's model saw changes in suspension, transmission, and safety that made it a standout in crash tests.
  • Subaru Outback: Built on the same chassis as the Legacy, this little wagon is a great choice for small families.
  • Acura TL: The TL is manufactured by the same factories that produce the Accord, and is one of the few cars that offer both luxury and outstanding safety features.
  • Volvo S60: Volvo has worked to make its name synonymous with safety.
  • Volkswagen Passat: This midsized sedan is fun to drive, and offers great protection in a collision, too.

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