Top safety pick award

Touring Club Suisse / Flickr

A record number of cars got a “Top Safety Pick” award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for 2012.  That’s just two years after the safety group made it a lot tougher to get the award. 

In 2010, the Institute added a rollover crash test to its criteria for “Top Safety Pick” awards.  Only 26 cars got the award that year.  This year, most car companies had strengthened the roofs of their cars – and 115 vehicles got the award. 

But safety is a moving target, and it could once again get harder to win the coveted award.

Spokesman Russ Rader said the group is considering adding two new criteria. One is forward collision warning, with automatic braking.  Another is making side panels harder to sheer off when one car sideswipes another.

"If they prove to be effective, we will add those to the top safety pick criteria," Rader said.

Rader admits new safety features cost money, but he said car companies managed to add electronic stability control to all their cars without greatly increasing the price of their products. 

He said car companies tend to introduce new safety features to higher-end luxury cars first - and once the technology becomes "off the shelf," they add it to lower-priced vehicles.