Last Thursday, New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine was involved in a near-fatal car accident on the Garden State Parkway. The governor was en route to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers University women’s basketball team over Imus’s controversial comments when his Chevy Suburban, being driven by a state trooper, was hit by a white pickup truck and smashed into a guard rail. Police indicated that a red pickup truck, driven by 20-year-old Kenneth Potts, moving erratically caused the white one to lose control and hit the governor’s vehicle. Potts left the scene of the accident and was not found by police until the next day. No charges have been filed so far. Corzine’s femur was broken in two places and protruded through his skin. The governor also sustained 12 broken ribs, a broken sterum, a broken collarbone, and a fractured vertebra. The state trooper and a political aide also received minor injuries in the accident. Corzine is in critical but stable condition at Cooper University Hospital. He has had several surgeries so far, including an unplanned one to clear fluid from around his lungs, and one this morning on his leg. The governor is “not out of the woods” his doctors said today. He is expected to recover slowly next few weeks and may require crutches or a wheelchair for up to six months. Senate President Richard Codey will serve as acting governor for the third time while Corzine recouperates (New Jersey only approved an amendment creating a Lt. Governor in 2005 and the office has yet to be filled).
Corzine was not wearing a seatbelt in clear violation of state law. Friends report that Corzine habitually does not wear his seatbelt. This contributed to the seriousness of his injuries, as the governor was thrown from the front to the back seat of his vehicle during the crash. New Jersey has a harsh history against seatbelt offenders. It was the 2nd in the nation (1985) to make front seatbelts manditory, and, in 2000, began allowing police to pull over drivers suspected of not wearing seatbelts. Ninety-percent of drivers and front seat passengers in New Jersey wear seatbelts, the eighth-highest rate in the country. In addition to facing long recovery time for his injuries, Corzine may face charges from the state police for his seatbelt violation. This is totally appropriate, as the governor should set an example for the rest of the state in following state motor vehicle law.
Nevertheless, prayers for the govenor’s recovery and for his family.