New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's hard-headed refusal to wear a seat belt nearly cost him his life.

Flouting the law, the multimillionaire politician didn't buckle up on Thursday, even as his SUV whizzed down the Garden State Parkway well above the speed limit. And it wasn't the first time.

A law-enforcement official told the Associated Press that state troopers who drive Corzine have tried and failed in the past to convince him to strap in.

"Those of you who know Governor Corzine know he's not always amenable to suggestion," admitted his chief of staff, Tom Shea.

Corzine is paying a heavy price for not wearing a seat belt. A harrowing list of injuries will require months of recovery.

The 60-year-old was in critical but stable condition with a leg that broke so badly, the bone punctured the flesh. It was pieced together with a rod and screws.

He also busted a dozen ribs, cracked a backbone, suffered a fractured breastbone and collarbone, and his scalp was cut open. He needed seven pints of blood.

He was on a ventilator and heavily sedated because the chest injuries made it excruciating to breathe. Police had to scrap an interview with him because he can't talk.

He's slated for more surgery on his leg today and Monday, will likely be out of work for weeks, and faces months of painful rehabilitation.

The accident occurred as Corzine was heading to a meeting between ex-radio host Don Imus and the Rutgers University basketball players he denigrated.

A red Ford F-150 pickup - which is still being hunted by cops - darted into the right lane, causing a white Dodge truck to swerve into the left lane, where Corzine's SUV was traveling.

The governor's driver, State Trooper Robert Rasinski, tried to avoid a collision and ended up hitting a guardrail. *