The number of new cars considered the safest by the US insurance industry nearly tripled in the past year, helped by automakers' push to make certain safety equipment more widely available.
Ford Motor Co and Honda Motor Co had the most vehicles on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's annual list of the safest cars for the 2008 model year. Thirty-four vehicles received the top safety pick designation for next year, compared with 13 vehicles from the 2007 model year.
The institute requires new cars and trucks to have electronic stability control (ESC), to qualify for the award. Many firms are putting the anti-rollover technology into their fleets ahead of a government requirement for the systems by the 2012 model year.
"Vehicles should be designed to provide good occupant protection when crashes occur, but now with ESC we have the possibility of preventing many crashes altogether," said Adrian Lund, the institute's president.
Lund cited studies that have estimated that as many as 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided annually if all vehicles had the technology.
Ford was represented on the list by the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable passenger cars with optional ESC, and the Ford Edge, Ford Taurus X and Lincoln MKX midsize sport utility vehicles. The Volvo S80, C70 midsize convertible and XC90 SUV, part of Ford's Volvo unit, made the list.
Honda and its Acura unit had seven vehicles on the list: the Honda Accord, Odyssey, Pilot, CR-V and Element, and the Acura MDX and RDX SUVs. Honda has had stability control on all SUVs, pickups and minivans since the 2007 model year.