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OK, Motorheads... Was the governor wearing his seatbelt ot not? How could the "black box" not work? Experts, fire away!

Governor says he had seat belt on

PORTLAND (AP) - Officials insisted Monday that Gov. John Baldacci was wearing a seat belt when his sport utility vehicle crashed even though computer data captured from the demolished SUV indicates he wasn't buckled up.

The data showed that the passenger seat belt was not buckled at the time of impact. But Baldacci and Detective James Trask, the state police driver, both say the governor's seat belt was buckled.

In a state police report, Trask recalled unbuckling the seat belt of the slumped governor, who was having trouble breathing. A doctor also said Baldacci's injuries were consistent with wearing a seat belt.

"The clear and convincing physical evidence and the interviews of the involved parties were sufficient to satisfy the questions raised by the conflicting data and it is the state police conclusion that Governor Baldacci had his seat belt buckled," Public Safety Commissioner Michael Cantara wrote in a letter.

The seat belt discrepancy was contained in additional state police accident reports released by Cantara at the request of The Associated Press under the Maine Freedom of Access law. It included five seconds of data from the SUV's onboard computer recovered by a Crash Data Retrieval System.

The system allows state police investigators to retrieve data captured in many late model cars, trucks and SUVs by the air bag module, the "computer" that controls air bag deployment.

Investigators blamed Trask for causing the Feb. 4 collision by driving too fast for the slippery conditions. The SUV slid on ice while passing a car, causing both vehicles to spin off I-295 in Bowdoinham.

The governor's Suburban skidded 204 feet, turning 180 degrees and going off the pavement before hitting some trees and coming to a rest on its side, according to the state police accident reconstruction.

Both Trask and the governor suffered mild concussions. The governor also suffered a broken rib. The other motorist, Timothy Putnam of Richmond, did not suffer serious injuries in the incident.

Lee Umphrey, the governor's spokesman, said Baldacci has used the accident as an example for others when it comes to seat belts.

"If he wasn't wearing a seat belt, he probably wouldn't be here or his injuries would have been much more serious," he said.

The data showed the SUV was traveling at 71 mph about 5 seconds before the vehicle's airbags deployed.

Trask told state police investigators that his speedometer showed 55 mph before he began passing the car. A state police accident reconstruction put the SUV's speed at 55 mph to 65 mph.

Officials said the higher speed from the event data recorder could have been caused by slipping wheels, though the data showed the accelerator was not depressed. The Suburban used by the governor was equipped with AutoTrac on-demand four-wheel-drive to reduce spinning, according to General Motors.

At the time, the interstate's speed limit had been reduced to 45 mph because of slippery conditions. Trask, who was not charged, returned to work last Thursday and continues to drive the governor, officials said.

As for the conflicting seat belt data, Cantara said there have been questions raised about the accuracy of the seat belt sensor in the passenger's seat. The data field may default to the "unbuckled" setting if the data is not fully captured for some reason, he said.

State police were advised of the system's limitations and potential data problems during training, he said.

Two state police sergeants have been trained in interpreting data and understanding the limitations, Cantara said.

The troopers are part of a pilot project coordinated by the Massachusetts State Police to help determine the potential for using the computerized data to corroborate crash reconstructions, he said.

· Premium Member
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Why is this even news?
If he wasn't wearing his seatbelt, he's an idiot.
If he was, then it was a mistake in the black box. Computers can't be perfect.

If it's a cover up, then who gets hurt? No one really. Is he trying to get out of a ticket?
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