Safest cars on the road today(Photo: Acura)

If you're shopping for a new vehicle, chances are how safe it is relative to others in its class probably plays very large in the decision-making process. But it's very difficult as a consumer to translate all the different active and passive safety systems, crash-test ratings and marketing bumph into real, solid numbers that are more easily digested.

The U.S.-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance-industry-funded safety group, has taken all the relevant data on driver fatalities over a four-year span (2006-2009), although to be included, there had to be at least 100,000 of a model registered over that time. Some low-volume manufacturers and high-performance cars were excluded because of that.

The IIHS says that it also adjusted for factors like "driver age and gender, calendar year, vehicle age, and vehicle density at the garaging location. Previously, researchers had adjusted only for driver age and gender."

We've included the IIHS's top 20 safest vehicles here, and keep your eyes peeled for the list of the 20 most dangerous models coming soon. The scores listed are the IIHS's determination of driver deaths per million registered vehicle years looking at 2005-'08 models during calendar years 2006-'09.