If you're a prudent, rational person, you probably consider safety not only when you think about investing, but also when you think about driving, eating, and even dating. Odds are, you steer clear of penny stocks pitched to you by cold-calling strangers, you forego the raw oysters that smell funny, and you refrain from answering personal ads placed by people in maximum-security prisons.

When it comes to cars, there's a lot of guidance to help you. Forbes recently highlighted the "least-safe cars of 2006," listing the following vehicles:

  • Hyundai Elantra
  • Nissan (NASDAQ:NSANY) Sentra
  • Kia Optima
  • Suzuki Forenza
  • Mazda6
  • Toyota (NYSE:TM) Corolla

In summing up, Forbes said: "Crash results point out two not-so-surprising facts: cheap equals less safe, and you really, really need to order side airbags." Airbags are the reason that the Toyota Corolla made the list. The tested model didn't come with standard side airbags. Recommended resources for checking out the crashworthiness of various vehicles were the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

So which cars have been deemed safest? I'm not aware of any one definitive list, but CNN/Money recently offered a roundup of good performers based on data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These included:

Large cars:

  • Ford (NYSE:F) Five Hundred/Mercury Montego
  • Volkswagen Audi A6

Mid-sized cars:

  • Saab 9-3
  • Subaru Legacy
  • Audi A3 and A4
  • GM (NYSE:GM) Chevrolet Malibu
  • Volkswagen Jetta and Passat

Small cars:

  • Honda (NYSE:HMC) Civic 4-door

Note that some of these cars don't come with standard side airbags, but were tested with them added as options. Some readers will be surprised not to find any Volvos on the list. CNN/Money noted that Volvo (now owned by Ford) explained that, "The company's cars are extremely safe based on Volvo's own tests and they are built to protect occupants in real-world crashes ... which are more complex events than a crash test could reasonably reproduce."

Once you've settled on your next safe car, it may be time to look for some safe investments. Few investments come with any guarantees, but one way to decrease risks while looking for significant growth in wealth is to seek out healthy and growing companies that pay significant dividends. That's just what Fool analyst Mathew Emmert does in our Income Investor newsletter. His average return over about two and a half years is roughly 15%, nearly four percentage points ahead of the S&P 500 (as of last time I checked). About a quarter of his picks are up more than 30%. Try the newsletter for free and you can check out all his picks and how they've done, as well as access all past issues. Our newsletters have an impressive track record -- see for yourself.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.