Cars: Top Safety Picks for 2013

By Michael Pines, Accident & Injury Prevention Expert

When it comes to vehicle safety, shoppers use a combination of consumer reports, manufacturer features, and government input to make their final purchasing decision. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) -- an independent agency that aims to reduce car accident injury and death -- is another strong influencer for guiding consumer purchasing behavior.

The IIHS released its Top Safety Pick award for 2013 on Dec. 20 with many expected manufacturers making the list, but not without a few surprises along the way.

The agency’s newest award, the Top Safety Pick+, is the latest addition to the report. It serves as the Institute’s highest possible designation. To qualify, a vehicle must earn “Good” ratings in all previous tests and at least an “Acceptable” rating in its new frontal test rating.

“The small overlap test replicates what happens when the front corner of a car collides with another vehicle or an object like a tree or utility pole. In the test, 25% of a car’s front end on the driver side strikes a 5-foot-tall rigid barrier at 40 mph,” the Institute said. According to

, it’s a difficult test to pass.

IIHS awarded its 2013 Top Safety Pick award to 117 vehicles; only 13 vehicles earned its Top Safety Pick+ designation.

As for interpreting the report, the IIHS reminds consumers to avoid comparing ratings across vehicle size groups because size and weight can influence the vehicle’s safety if involved in a car accident.

“Larger, heavier vehicles generally afford more protection than smaller, lighter ones,” the Institute said.

“Models that earn Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick are the best vehicle choices for safety within size categories, but this doesn’t mean a small car that’s a Top Safety Pick+ or Top Safety Pick affords more protection than a bigger car that doesn’t earn the award,” the IIHS added.

All 2013 Top Safety Pick+ vehicles fall within the “Midsize moderately priced cars” and “Midsize luxury/near luxury cars” categories.

Top Safety Picks+ 2013

Midsize moderately priced cars

Chrysler 200

(4-door models)

Dodge Avenger

Ford Fusion

(built after December 2012)

Honda Accord 2-door

Honda Accord 4-door

Kia Optima

Nissan Altima

(4-door models, built after November 2012)

Subaru Legacy

(built after August 2012)

Subaru Outback

(built after August 2012)

Suzuki Kizashi

Volkswagen Passat

(built after October 2012)

Midsize luxury/near luxury cars

Acura TL

Volvo S60

About Michael Pines

Michael Pines founded the

Law Offices of Michael Pines, APC

, in San Diego in 1992. He is an accident and injury prevention expert in San Diego, and he is on a campaign to end senseless injury one blog at a time.