Christie Challenger Buono Cited for No Seatbelt in Crash

New Jersey Senator Barbara Buono, the presumptive Democratic opponent of Governor Chris Christie, was cited for not wearing a seatbelt during a car accident last night that left her with a cut on her forehead.

Buono, 59, was in the back seat and was being driven home by a staff assistant when the 2012 Jeep Wrangler she was riding in collided with an oncoming vehicle after a campaign event in Franklin Township. She was taken as a precaution to a hospital, where she was treated and released. Neither driver was injured, according to David Turner, her campaign spokesman.

An investigation determined that the aide, 23-year-old Nicolas Rodriguez, pulled into traffic and failed to yield to an oncoming 2012 Ford Escape, police Sergeant Philip Rizzo said in a statement. Rodriguez was issued a summons for careless driving, according to the statement.

“Thanks for all the well wishes,” Buono said on her campaign Twitter account. “Grateful everyone’s fine. Don’t make same mistake as me: wear a seatbelt no matter where you’re sitting.”

Under a 2010 New Jersey law, all motor-vehicle passengers in New Jersey are required to wear a safety belt, even when sitting in the back seat, or face a fine of $46.

Corzine Crash

Former Governor Jon Corzine, a one-term Democrat, lost more than half his blood and broke 15 bones in 2007 when his state police-driven Chevrolet Suburban crashed on the Garden State Parkway near Atlantic City. Corzine wasn’t wearing a seatbelt while sitting in the front passenger seat of the vehicle, which was going 91 miles (146 kilometers) per hour.

After his recovery, Corzine made a public-service announcement about the importance of buckling up.

Buono, an attorney who has served in the Legislature since 1994, became the only Democrat to declare her candidacy when she filed papers with state election officers in December. She formally kicked off her campaign Feb. 2. Other potential Democratic candidates for governor, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Senator Richard Codey, opted not to challenge Christie.

Christie, 50, a first-term Republican with approval ratings above 70 percent in recent polls, holds a 42 percentage point lead over Buono in a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released today. Christie had out-raised Buono 10-fold through December and garnered endorsements from some Democrats.

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