The safest car on the road is the 2009 Subaru Forester, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The annual award is based on overall crash ratings. The 2009 Subaru Forester did best in the Institute's front, side and rear crash tests.
Since you don't know what kind of a crash you could be in, it's important to select a vehicle that tests well under all conditions. That's what earned the car the title of '2008 Top Safety Pick'.
The Forester also features electronic stability control as standard equipment. ESC helps prevent a vehicle from skidding sideways. It's a great feature -- unfortunately ever manufacturer calls it something different.
Subaru's electronic stability control feature is called VDC, for Vehicle Dynamics Control.
The system is called StabiliTrak in General Motors and GMC products. AdvanceTrack is what Ford calls it.
Honda and Acura call it Vehicle Stability Assist. Toyota and Lexus call it Vehicle Stability Control. Nissan calls it Vehicle Dynamic Control.
The most popular name is ESP, for Electronic Stability Prorgram. That's what Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Dodge, Chrysler, Hyundai, Saab and Volkswagen call it.
Whatever you call it, it can help you avoid an accident, or lessen the impact of one you cannot avoid.
Back to the the crash testing --
Front crashes are at 40 MPH, and evaluation is based in part on virtual injuries to a crash dummy in the driver's seat
Side impacts are done with a barrier slamming into the vehicle at 31 MPH -- the barrier represents an SUV or pick-up truck. In this test, there is a second crash dummy passenger. Virtual injuries to both are measured.
Rear crach testing is a bit trickier, since it is designed to measure how well seat features such as head restraints protects driver and passengers from whiplash and other injuries.
Okay, so the 2009 Subaru Forester isn't the sexiest, best-looking car on the road. But it's the safest. That makes it a great drive.