State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout wasn’t wearing a seatbelt during last month’s crash that sidelined her exploration of a gubernatorial run, according to a report released by the State Patrol.
At the time, Vinehout was exploring a possible run for the Democratic nomination for governor. Madison School Board member Mary Burke, a former state Commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive, has already announced plans to run as a Democrat against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Vinehout, D-Alma, underwent an eight-hour reconstructive surgery on her broken arm. She continues to recover at home and has started physical therapy, but she won’t be able to attend next week’s scheduled Senate floor session, husband Douglas Kane said Tuesday.
An announcement on her political plans is not imminent, Kane said.
Vinehout was traveling in the backseat of her 2008 Toyota Avalon on Dec. 8 during a heavy snowfall. Several crashes were reported across southern Wisconsin that day, including one fatal pile-up about two miles south of where Vinehout’s crash occurred on Interstate 94 in Racine County.
Vinehout’s vehicle was heading east just before 10 a.m. when the driver swerved to avoid hitting cars that had stopped ahead. The report doesn’t say why the other cars were stopped or whether it was related to any other nearby crashes. Vinehout’s vehicle veered into a roadside ditch before going through a state-owned fence.
The driver of a second vehicle that had also swerved into the ditch and was stopped said Vinehout’s vehicle struck his from behind before hitting the fence, though Vinehout’s driver told police she did not recall hitting another vehicle.
Vinehout’s driver, campaign volunteer Deborah Ross, and front-seat passenger, Elisabeth Donoghue, whom Vinehout had hired to work on her campaign a week earlier, were both wearing seatbelts.
Kane said Tuesday that Vinehout, who has been taking pain medication and is unavailable for interviews, was not wearing a seatbelt because she was in the backseat doing paperwork.
State law requires all adults traveling in a vehicle to wear a seat belt or face a $10 fine. Kane said Vinehout did not receive a ticket.
State Patrol Lt. James Kicmol said seat belt tickets aren’t always issued in crashes but didn’t have information Tuesday as to why the investigating trooper decided not to issue a ticket in this case.
Vinehout was the only person in the crash taken by ambulance to the hospital, according to the report. The driver was not injured, the front-seat passenger had a “possible injury” and Vinehout sustained a “non-incapacitating injury.”
Both vehicles were towed. The report listed the damage to the second vehicle as “moderate” and the damage to Vinehout’s vehicle as “very severe.”
The officer investigating the crash was not on the scene and communicated with the involved parties by phone and email afterward.
Vinehout had been planning to attend two campaign-related events in Racine and Kenosha that day, but they were canceled after the crash.