The Newark Star Ledger reports that the SUV in which New Jersey Governor Corzine was driving had its emergency lights flashing when the accident occurred. The driver whose swerving was the proximate cause of the crash was trying to pull over to get out of the way when the crash happened:
About 6 p.m. Thursday, police said, the driver of a red Ford pickup pulled over to the right side of the Garden State Parkway at mile post 43.4 in Galloway Township when he saw a black SUV approaching from behind with its emergency flashers activated.
The driver "was moving over in response to the flashing lights," said Capt. Al Della Fave, a State Police spokesman. "He knew there were emergency vehicles and he needed to get out of the way."
As his right front tire went off the paved shoulder, it hit some soft dirt, jerking the pickup to the right, police said. The driver tugged his wheel to the left but overcompensated, police said, causing the truck to partially enter the right lane.
The driver of the white Dodge, whom police have not identified, pulled sharply to the left to avoid the red pickup, but collided with the passenger-side front fender of the governor's SUV, police said.
Corzine, who was sitting in the front passenger seat -- and apparently not wearing a seat belt, aides said -- took the worst of the impact. The driver, Trooper Robert Rasinski, and an aide sitting in the back seat, Samantha Gordon, were both wearing seat belts and were not badly hurt. They have since been released from the hospital.
We don't know if Corzine was driving with emergency lights flashing, or if they happened to be using them only at this instance. Perhaps they were on only for a moment when another driver acted in a dangerous manner. But the governor's office ought to explain.
As a general rule, only genuine emergency vehicles should use emergency lights. I'm told that in the past at least, some governors have chosen to travel by state police helicopter to avoid difficulties on the highway. Certainly a trip to meet with Don Imus and a university basketball team doesn't meet the test.
While attention is focused on Governor Corzine and the injuries he suffered, it's important to recognize that the driver of the red pickup might just as easily have suffered critical - or even fatal - injuries. While the driver of that vehicle apparently veered onto the road while recovering, what would have happened if he had not been able to steer back onto the highway? If he was as foolish and disrespectful of state law as Corzine apparently is, he could just as easily have been the one to suffer those serious injuries.
Hopefully the governor's office will explain what was going on, and presumably it won't involve some trumped-up statement that saves face by asserting that Corzine's office had no say in what was a long-standing policy of the state troopers. Unfortunately, that's the sort of cop-out you come to expect in arrogance-of-power cases - which I fear this might be.