By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Light-weight vehicles may improve fuel economy, but they can also put you at greater risk of injury or death if you’re involved in a crash. So with gas prices rising fast, what’s a budget minded driver to do? You may want to opt for an electric car as 3-On Your Side’s reports, they may be small, but their safe.

You don’t have to sacrifice safety for fuel economy. Just released crash test results show that automakers are using the same safety engineering in new electric cars as they do in gasoline-powered vehicles.

In the first-ever crash tests of plug-in cars, the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf have come up winners. Both were named top safety picks by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an insurance industry financed research group after they were put through various high speed crash tests.

Joe Nolan of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says, “That means they need to be able to manage crash energy in the front without allowing intrusion into the occupant compartment. It means they need to have a strong roof to protect you a rollover crash. It means they need to have strong pillars to protect you in a side impact crash.”

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Both vehicles also have side airbags and head protection as well as electronic stability control. The Insurance Institute says that heavier batteries used in these cars, definitely can influence crashworthiness. According to Nolan, “Heavier vehicles tend to protect their occupants in crashes much better than lighter vehicles. The Volt and the Leaf, although small in size, weigh as much as midsize cars which is a big safety advantage for these vehicles. ”

While you will save money on gasoline driving these vehicles, these cars aren’t cheap to buy. The Leaf retails for around $33,000, the Volt, around $40,000 and even though buyers can qualify for a tax credit when buying them, in many cases, there are waiting lists to even get one.

Reported by Jim Donovan, CBS 3

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