Top picks: More cars earn safety award

LOS ANGELES In 2007, there were only 13 models that qualified to earn the Top Safety Pick award. This year, 34 qualify, and for the first time, the list includes a pick-up truck -- the Toyota Tundra.

Better technology and more air bags have had a lot to do with the increase in safer vehicles.

"Nowadays more and more pick-ups come with four doors, and they're being used as family vehicles, but they're not as likely as SUVs and cars to have the latest safety equipment," said Adrian Lund of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. "Toyota is one of the first automakers to offer side airbags and electronic stability control as standard equipment on a pickup."

Along with airbags, electronic stability control is crucial for a vehicle to make the Top Safety list.

"The best crash is the one that doesn't happen," said Lund. "And electronic stability control has reduced fatal crashes by more than 40 percent."

One category that really stands out with the most winners is midsize SUVs, which includes the BMW X3 and the Hyundai Veracruz.

The small car category has only one winner, the Subaru Impreza.

"Small, lightweight cars can't protect you in a crash as well as larger, heavier vehicles," said Lund. "So if you're shopping for a small car, it's even more important to look at the crash test ratings."

Good news for consumers is you don't have to buy a luxury vehicle to buy safety. Family vehicles like the Honda Accord and the Saturn Vue offer the same level of protection as vehicles costing twice as much.

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