WASHINGTON, D.C. – The number of new cars considered the safest by the insurance industry nearly tripled in the past year, helped by automakers’ push to make safety equipment more widely available, according to http://www.boston.com.

Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. had the most vehicles on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s annual list of the safest cars for the 2008-model year. Thirty-four vehicles received the top safety pick designation for 2008, compared with 13 vehicles from the 2007-model year.

The institute requires new cars and trucks to have Electronic Stability Control, or ESC, to qualify for the award. Many auto companies are putting the antirollover technology into their fleets ahead of a government requirement for the systems by the 2012-model year.

Ford was represented on the list by the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable passenger cars with optional ESC, and the Ford Edge, Ford Taurus X, and Lincoln MKX mid-size SUVs. The Volvo S80, C70 midsize convertible, and XC90 SUV, part of Ford’s Volvo unit, made the list.

Ford has said previously it will put stability control on its entire lineup by the end of 2009.

Honda and its Acura unit had seven vehicles on the list: the Honda Accord, Odyssey, Pilot, CR-V, and Element, as well as the Acura MDX and RDX SUVs.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials