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AMERICAN DRIVERS MAY SOON NEED SEAT BELTS ON JOB

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The federal government intends to require that the 35 million workers who drive on the job wear seat belts, Labor Secretary Elizabeth Dole announced Wednesday.

She said the requirement could save an estimated 685 lives a year. Even business people riding in taxis would be affected.The public has 120 days to comment on the proposed rule. A hearing, if requested, would be held in January. Dole said she was unsure when the rule would take effect but the process would be expedited.

Employers who do not force their workers to use seat belts and who do not provide them with driver training could face fines up to $10,000 under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation, Dole said.

Since 1984, when states began passing seat-belt laws, belt use among the general public has increased from 14 percent to 46 percent, the secretary told reporters. Thirty-six states now have seat belt laws covering 88 percent of the population, she said.