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Published: Friday, 12/16/2011

115 vehicles named 'top safety picks'

Record number includes 15 Toyotas


ARLINGTON, Va. -- An insurance industry group named a record 115 vehicles as "top safety picks" Thursday, including the new versions of the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

The list from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety includes 18 new recipients on top of the 97 who qualified for the award last year and had it carry over to the 2012 model year. The institute tests the vehicles to see how well they hold up in front, side, rear, and rollover crashes.

The Accord sedan returned to the list after a two-year absence. It hadn't won since the institute added a roof strength test in 2010. In order to receive a "good" rating for roof strength, the institute requires that vehicles have roofs more than twice as strong as federal standards.

A new federal standard for vehicle roofs is expected to be phased in beginning with the 2013 model year.

Institute President Adrian Lund credited improved roof design with boosting Honda's safety ratings. Ten of the 18 new vehicles on the list are produced by Honda.

"The automaker buckled down and upgraded roofs on 10 models that missed winning last year because of rollover protection," Mr. Lund said in a statement, noting that the Japanese automaker has winners in seven vehicle classes ranging from mini cars to pickups.

The 2012 Camry received its first-ever top safety pick award, after falling short last year because of a "marginal" rating for seat and heat restraints. A total of 15 Toyota vehicles received the top award this year, the most of any automaker.

Toyota's Prius V, a larger version of its popular hybrid, also made the list, along with the electric Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf.

The institute groups the top safety picks by vehicle type and size. While numerous mini and small cars made the list, the institute stressed that larger, heavier cars usually protect occupants better than smaller, lighter ones, even if those vehicles are top safety picks.

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