DETROIT - You don't have to tell this to L. Brooks Patterson.
He knows all too well.
Patterson, in seclusion after his release from a month long stay in McLaren Hospital because of his devastating August 10th accident, is taking the kind of bitter medicine no one in his condition wants to; paying the traffic ticket. Today the Auburn Hills Police department issued a $65 moving violation to the 73 year old Patterson. He was not wearing a seat belt when the Chrysler 300 he rode in ended up slamming into a new VW at the intersection of Opdyke and Walton Road. Patterson ended up with broken legs, wrists and an injured pelvis. In fact Patterson told police his seat belt was clasped into place and he was sitting on top of the straps; thus defeating the annoying alarm but doing little to protect himself in a bad accident. It also must have been disconcerting to to say the least as they sat bloody and badly battered [Patterson on the ground bleeding profusely from his head and his driver, hurt even worse, trapped in their county issued car] as rescue workers were trying to help them the skies opened up with torrential rain as severe summer weather blew in.
Patterson put out this statement this afternoon: "Not wearing a seatbelt was a mistake, I accept my responsibility and paid the $65 fine this afternoon." This could be considered insult added to severe injury; but the fact of the matter he was violating the law and as a top elected official in Oakland County that is never a good idea. It is also something I will bet L. Brooks spent a lot of time thinking about while rehabbing his considerable injuries in the hospital for weeks on end. L. Brooks is well known for his grand sense of humor and I will also bet he will find a way to put himself out as the example of what not to do in a humorous way to help teach the lesson. This is the right thing that will hurt into the future and yet he is quite obviously game for that challenge.
That L. Brooks' received his ticket is, strangely enough, a signal showing he is on the mend. Auburn Hills police said all along they would only visit the possibilities of tickets in this case when the injured parties were up to dealing with them. The unspoken piece here is James Cram, Patterson's driver, has not been ticketed. There is a reason for that. He remains in the hospital and there is no end to his stay in sight. He too was not wearing his seat belt. A seatbelt ticket in his world will be the least of his worries.
There are wreckless driving charges against the man who Auburn Hills Police say caused the accident. His name is Anthony Prainito, a radio ad sales manager, who is out on $50,000 bond. He was driving a decorated 2012 Volkswagen Passat decked out for the Woodward dream cruise. He was not wearing his seat belt either. So when we add up the seat belt wearers in this terrible accident the results are a failing grade. A 25 percent seat belt rate belies the statistics about seat belt usage in America that is pushing toward 90%. That one single accident in Oakland County could have a 25% seat belt usage rate is frankly appalling.
Most of us try to avoid the former smoker who beat the habit and is now an anti-smoking evangelist. But I will look foward to hearing from L. Brooks when he does finally make it back to the public spotlight again. His pro-seat belt story is likely to be one for the ages. He will likely bring humor and searing insight to the issue. Nothing good comes from serious accidents like these, but somehow I can see L. Brooks getting a lot of mileage out of his ticket as a way to help us all understand why doing the right thing can be painful, but also quite necessary for self preservation.
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