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Did You Know?

61% The reduced risk of fatality in a frontal crash if the car has functioning air bags and seatbelts are worn.

Every year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the safest cars the labels “Top Safety Pick” and “Top Safety Pick+.” This year, the number of cars awarded rose to 75 from 39 in 2014.

Wondering why there’s been an increase? The standards are still just as tough. But more cars are qualifying because manufacturers have improved vehicle design and are using more safety technology. Here are a few key innovations that are leading the way.

Tighter Testing In 2012, the IIHS started using “overlap testing” on car models because 25% of front-end collisions come from clipping the front side panel or fender of another vehicle (and aren’t head-on). Manufacturers have responded by designing improved front left panels, which help protect drivers.

Smart Braking The latest high-tech forward collision warning systems scan the road ahead and determine when the car is close to hitting another vehicle or object. If it senses something, the car alerts the driver and automatically engages the braking system, helping drivers steer clear of potential accidents.

Emergency brake assist technology can also sense when the driver is making a panic stop — a quick shift from the gas pedal to the brake pedal — and will apply more pressure to help shorten the car’s stopping distance.

Air Bag Upgrade Dual-depth air bags react to different sizes and weights of passengers, as well as to seat position, the intensity of the impact, and whether or not the passenger is wearing a seatbelt.

In both the backseat and the front seats of some cars, side air bags protect passengers from non-frontal collisions, and curtain bags protect riders’ heads.

Blind Spot Light Blind spot technology alerts drivers to objects, pedestrians or cars that you can’t turn your head to see while driving or parking. Different cars have different systems, but they all help their drivers sense when there’s something in their blind spot.

Learn More

So which cars made the cut? Get the full list from IIHS here.

Night Vision Infrared headlamps or thermal-imaging cameras help drivers see farther and better down a dark road. These systems brighten thermal images and display them on an in-dashboard screen.

Also cool: Adaptive headlights, which aim in the direction that you’re driving. Some can also change the length or height of the beam based on the speed that you’re traveling.