5 of the safest cars you can buy

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    When looking for a safe car to buy, you want to know it can hold up well in crashes. But you should also look also for strong headlights and advanced technology that may help you avoid an accident altogether.

    That's what it takes nowadays to win the best rating of "top safety pick plus" from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Only vehicles with superior crash test results plus accident-avoidance technology and strong headlights earn top ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

    As new active safety technology like front crash prevention has become available, the IIHS has tested these systems and added them to superior crash test ratings as requirements for the top overall rating. More recently, to focus on the dangers of substandard headlights, superior performance in this category has been added to the necessary hurdles.

    The latest list achieving top safety pick plus ratings includes one small car, one small SUV and three large sedans. Vehicles that do well in the crash tests for front, side, glancing front blow and rollover but do not get adequate crash prevention or headlight ratings get the next rank -- "top safety pick" minus the plus. (See the the top two IIHS ratings for 2017 models.)

    Let's have a closer look at the five latest top safety pick plus winners. In some cases, the advanced crash-avoidance technology is optional and only versions of a car with those options qualify for the top award.

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    Jerry Edgerton, author of Car Shopping Made Easy, has been covering the car beat since Detroit companies dominated the U.S. market. The former car columnist for Money magazine and Washington correspondent for Business Week, Edgerton specializes in finding the best deals on wheels and offering advice on making your car last.