Ford's BeltMinder safety belt reminder system is proving to be a potential lifesaver when it comes to increasing safety belt usage among new vehicle owners. Research done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) during 2001 shows the BeltMinder safety belt reminder system im-proved belt usage by 5 percentage points. According to the U.S. government, each 1 percentage point increase in belt usage nationally would lead to 300 lives saved each year. BeltMinder is activated after the initial belt reminder stops chiming. The system is activated either when the engine is started or when a car or truck goes approximately 3 miles per hour. If the driver remains unbuckled, BeltMinder sounds a chime while flashing a warning light on the instrument panel. The system flashes and chimes for six seconds, pauses for 30 seconds and then repeats for up to five minutes. If the driver fastens the safety belt, the system is deactivated. BeltMinder was introduced in 1999 and was rolled out across all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles for the 2000 model year. Volvo vehi-cles sold in the U.S. also are equipped with BeltMinder. Vehicles ranged from the 1998- through 2002-model years. The research showed increased belt usage for all categories of vehicles -- from cars and minivans to pickup trucks and sport/utilities.