As long as its done by reputable organizations I think its a great thing to consider. I personally, do not, but if I had a family to tote around I'd definitely be interested in the safety ratings of my vehicle as well as real world statistics.
Safety ratings can also give insurance a way to charge rates more appropriately according to your level of risk, and contribute to increased resale value due to higher demand from including both safety oriented drivers along with people like me who don't care in the market.
When looking at purchasing my vehicles though, I focus mainly on maintenance and reliability, followed by functionality, then fuel economy + cost of ownership which factors all sorts of things, including my insurance rates, and cycles back to maintenance and repair.
Yes, I believe that awards really matter when it comes to the safety of vehicles. Consumers rely on a variety of information to learn about products before they purchase, especially for big ticket items like cars. Familiarity with safety awards for vehicles can provide some information for the consumer about how safe a vehicle is.
Consumers don't have the time to go through and do testing on everything that they want to buy, and that's why independent testing is so important. As long as these testing companies are trustworthy, seeing the awards given to particular cars should carry some extra weight. These companies have a reputation to uphold, and they should be honest.
No, awards do not really matter when it comes to the safety of vehicles. The only thing that matters is the car's safety record. A vehicle could get many awards for design, but that does not make it safe. When buying a vehicle, everyone should make sure that it will keep them safe in an accident.
The car you want to buy got four stars in government crash ratings. It sure sounds good, but is it really, since other cars earned five? Who awards those stars, and what option boxes should I check so I’ll have the safest possible car in the driveway? The big winner is electronic stability control (ESC), which will take control of the car (applying the brakes to one or more wheels) to keep you safe on slippery roads.