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NBC's Dateline again had the exclusive story on the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety's top safety picks for 2006 last night, with reporter Lea Thompson again cast in the role of safetymarm. The determining factor in both Silver and Gold categories was the inclusion of side curtain air bags, which help prevent noggin smackdowns during both frontal-offset and side-impact crashes. Separating Silver and Gold winners, however, were headrests sufficient to provide whiplash. Click through for results.

VW Jetta
VW Passat
Audi A3
Audi A4
Audi A6
Chevrolet Malibu (with opt. side airbags)


Ford 500 or Mercury Montego (only with optional side airbags)
Subaru Legacy
Saab 1994
Honda Civic

Safe cars: Gold and silver awards [MSNBC]

Safety, Schmafety: The Least-Safe Cars of '06 [internal]