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The Dodge Daytona two-door hatchback, the Chevrolet Beretta and the Ford Taurus two-door wagon are among the safest 1993 cars on the road, according to the August issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine.

The magazine's ratings combined federal crash-test scores with insurance injury claims. The lower the overall score, the safer the car, says the magazine.The Daytona had a score of 4. The Beretta and the Taurus wagon each scored 5.

Cars with a score of 6 include the Dodge Caravan van, the Dodge Shadow four-door hatchback, the two-door Honda Prelude, the Nissan 240SX two-door hatchback, the Toyota Camry four-door sedan and the Volvo 240 four-door sedan.

The Ford Thunderbird scored 7, as did the Honda Accord four-door sedan, the Nissan Altima four-door sedan, and the Pontiac Trans Sport van.

The Ford Crown Victoria four-door sedan, the Ford Mustang two-door convertible and the Ford Taurus four-door sedan each scored 8.

Cars with the highest scores (remember, the lower the score, the safer the car) include the Chevrolet Astro van with a score of 17, the Mitsubishi Galant four-door sedan with a score of 14 and the Volkswagen Passat four-door sedan with a score of 14.

The Chevrolet Geo Metro two-door hatchback scored 13, as did the Ford Probe two-door hatchback and the Saturn SL four-door sedan.

Factors to consider if you're out to select a safe car include its size and weight, says the magazine. Big cars provide better accident protection than small ones.

Also, look for safety features such as air bags, seat belts and dashboard padding.

The magazine says automatic seat belts do not provide adequate protection in and of themselves. You must also fasten the lap belt. (An automatic belt rides a track around the door and the shoulder portion of the belt locks into place when you shut the door.)

Also, if you're short, you'll probably need a car with adjustable seat belts. A seat belt should have a height adjuster at the belt anchor on the door, says the magazine.

Asthma and air bags

This isn't a reason for not wanting an air bag in your car, but General Motors scientists say the aerosols and gases in air bag sometimes cause asthma attacks, reports Don Kirkman of Scripps Howard News Service.

During a recent test, 24 asthmatics sat in the back seat of a GM car for 20 minutes after air bags were deliberately inflated. Eight of the 24 suffered an asthma attack, including three who had to be medicated.

GM senior research scientist Kenneth Gross said hospital emergency rooms should be aware that air bags can cause an asthma attack. The automaker and its air bag suppliers are trying to identify the irritating chemicals, which will be replaced with substances that do not cause asthmatic reactions.

GM's announcement was made Sunday during the annual meeting of the American Lung Association.