New Jersey Governor: "I Should Be Dead"

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine shows the aftermath of his injuries at the end of a public service announcement commercial promoting seat belt use, May 24, 2007. CBS

"I'm New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, and I should be dead."

So begins Corzine's promoting seat belt use, which was released Thursday.

It's a dramatic message from Corzine, whose failure to wear a seat belt one day last month left him with more than a dozen broken bones, reports CBS New correspondent Nancy Cordes.

Corzine worked with the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration on the message, which was released to coincide with Memorial Day weekend travel.

He taped the announcement May 15 at the governor's mansion in Princeton, where he is recuperating. A clip made available on the governor's Web page shows Corzine sitting in the library. Audio and video versions of the message were being released to broadcast outlets nationwide.

After his opening, Corzine details his injuries as video plays of the wrecked SUV he was riding in. Corzine broke his leg, 11 ribs, collarbone and sternum in the crash and spent 18 days in the hospital.

"It took a remarkable team of doctors and a series of miracles to save my life when all I needed was a seat belt," Corzine says.

He then advises, "I have to live with my mistake. You don't. Buckle up."

Corzine has apologized and voluntarily paid a $46 fine for violating state law by failing to buckle up as he rode in the front seat of his SUV, which was driven by a state trooper. It crashed after it was clipped by a pickup truck on the Garden State Parkway. The SUV was going 91 mph in a 65 mph zone.

The release of the Corzine PSA comes during the annual "Click It or Ticket" seat belt enforcement campaign by law enforcement agencies across the country.

AAA says using a seat belt reduces the risk of death by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury by 50 percent for front seat passengers.

The organization's Mid-Atlantic spokesman David Weinstein praised the ad.

"Extraordinarily powerful," he said. "It will save lives."

Corzine is not the only politician taking heat for his habits, adds Cordes. The White House press corps wants to know why President Bush won't buckle up when he's tooling around his Texas compound.

"It's always important to wear seatbelts, especially when driving slowly on the ranch," Tony Snow, White House spokesman, said Wednesday, referring to Mr. Bush.

There is no question, but the president was seen Sunday at his ranch — which is private, not public — behind the wheel of his pickup truck, and he was not buckled up as he drove by reporters, reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

The Corzine ad comes just days after a news conference at the governor's mansion in which he noted that about 229 people who weren't wearing their seat belts died in 2005 on New Jersey roads.

"Alcohol, other distracted driving elements, speed, all those issues combined, make our highways a threat if we don't do those things to protect ourselves, and one of the easiest things to do to protect ourselves is to buckle up," Corzine said.
  • Lloyd Vries

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