When purchasing a vehicle, one of the main things to take into consideration is the overall safety of the vehicle. An excellent resource is a document recently released by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) entitled “Top Safety Pick Rating for 2012,” which came out at the end of last year. The IIHS began testing and analyzing consumer vehicles in 2005 to come up with its first Top Safety Pick Rating assessment and at that time only 11 U.S. manufactured vehicles made the grade.

Today 115 vehicles manufactured in the United States qualified for the IIHS’s safety awards. Adrian Lund, president of IIHS, said that is “a testament to the commitment auto makers have made to go above and beyond minimum safety standards.” The two companies with the most Top Picks were Subaru and Toyota of North America. All 5 Subaru models sold in the US were awarded this year. 15 of Toyota of North America’s Toyota, Lexus and Scion models won a Top Safety Pick Rating this year, including the redesigned 2012 Camry, which also got a 5-Star Rating in crash tests done by the NHTSA, which recently tightened and toughened their guidelines for their rating system.

Honda of America was awarded for Most Improvement. 10 of the 18 vehicles awarded Top Safety Picks for their first time were all Hondas and Acuras (a Honda subsidiary). The manufacturer redesigned these models’ roofs, which did not pass guidelines for rollover protection last year.

Almost every type of automobile had a Top Pick in its category. Those eco-friendly high-mileage cars awarded this year include the Nissan Leaf, the Chevrolet Volt* and the Prius V (larger than the original Prius model). Vans awarded for Top Safety were the Volkswagen Routan, the Toyota Sienna, the Honda Odyssey, the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Chrysler Town & Country.

*General Motors & Chevrolet announced a Safety Recall for the Chevy Volt due to unexpected, delayed combustion of their lithium-ion battery days after an accident or crash occurs.