More cars win Insurance Institute's top safety rating

by Brooke Hart
NBC News

Thirty-four vehicles made the insurance institute's 2008 safety list, a big change from the 2007 model year, in which only 13 automobiles made the list.

"What this shows you is that auto makers are competing on safety now. They used to say safety doesn't sell," says Insurance Institute for Highway Safety President, Adrian Lund.

Winners, including the Honda Accord and Audi A3 among midsize cars, hold up best in crash tests, and all have Electronic Stability Control, to protect against slick spots and rollovers.

"The vehicle knows that it's not going where you have it pointed, where you intended, and it will actually make corrections for you to help keep your car under control," says Adrian Lund, President of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Three Minivans made the list, including the Honda Odyssey.

A number of midsize SUV's won too, including two BMW models, two Hyundai models, the Saturn VUE, and the Toyota Highlander are all winners in that group.

New to the list this year is the category of large pick-ups.

Standard side airbags and electronic stability control made the Toyota Tundra the sole winner.

As for car shoppers watching gas prices rise, safety is just one of a multitude of criteria that consumers may consider when buying an automobile.

Experts say, it's all about finding the right mix.

"A lot of times you do have to give up fuel economy to get a heavier vehicle to maybe get a vehicle with some safety features. But it really is about getting that balance," says Rebecca Lindland of Global Insight.

Electronic Stability Control will be mandatory on new cars by 2012.

The insurance institute says as a standard feature, it could prevent 10,000 fatal crashes every year.