WASHINGTON, D.C. — All passenger vehicles sold in the United States must have shoulder and lap belts in the rear center seat by the 2008 model year under a federal rule issued on Dec. 8, according to the Associated Press. Three out of four new passenger cars already have the belts, but only half of pickups and sport utility vehicles do. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration´s new rule requires 80 percent of vehicles to have shoulder belts by the 2007-model year and 100 percent to have them by 2008. NHTSA estimates the rule will save up to 23 lives and prevent up to 495 injuries each year. Automakers support the rule, which will cost the industry between $179 million and $240 million, NHTSA said. Vehicles have been required to have shoulder belts in rear window seats since 1989. A law passed by Congress in 2002 required NHTSA to issue a rule requiring shoulder and lap belts in the middle back seat, where kids often ride. NHTSA Administrator Dr. Jeffrey Runge said since shoulder and lap belts can be used with booster seats, the new rule makes the rear center seat "the safest place for children," Runge said.

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