When Norman Donald got into his car yesterday morning, he had a thought.

On Wednesday night he'd read a story about people killed and injured in crashes where they had not been wearing a seatbelt.

Because of that, he put his on.

Soon after he was involved in a head-on crash just out of Rotorua - and believes he would have been killed if he had not belted up.

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Donald, 71, had read a story from Belt Up NZ, a series by the Herald about seatbelt compliance, deaths and injuries.

He doesn't always wear a seatbelt, but the story made him think twice.

"I read the article and it made a lot of sense," he said.

"The number of people who survive crashes that have been wearing seatbelts, and the number of people killed because they haven't been - it's staggering.

"So when I got into the car this morning I thought 'actually, I better put it on'.

"When this hit was looming in front of me today I thought it was curtains, but thankfully wearing a seatbelt made the difference of being here unscathed. I will always wear a seatbelt from now on."

Norman Donald crashed near Rotorua today and would have been killed if he was not wearing a seatbelt. Photograph supplied
Norman Donald crashed near Rotorua today and would have been killed if he was not wearing a seatbelt. Photograph supplied

Donald left his Lake Tarawera home to head into Rotorua for an appointment.

As he neared the city he collided with a rubbish truck.

"I came around the corner and blow me down, the truck was right across the road, heading directly for me.

"It was a great big truck. Had I not been wearing a seatbelt . . ."

Donald said that, previously, he didn't wear his seatbelt every time he got in the car.

"Being of the old school, there are times where I find seatbelts to be a nuisance and I just don't bother," he admitted.

"I'll always wear one after today though. If I didn't put the belt on I probably wouldn't be here now.

"It was a pretty big impact, I'm very lucky."

Donald suffered minor injuries and walked away from the crash.

"I don't always drive around without a seatbelt on, but I will wear it from now on."

He wanted others to learn from his experience, and had a "very clear message".

"In future I will always wear a seatbelt because without one today I wouldn't have had another chance."

In the past five years, more than 300 people who died in New Zealand crashes were not wearing a seatbelt.

More died last year than in any other single year.

The Herald, in partnership with the New Zealand Police has launched Belt Up - a four-day series about seat belt safety aiming to raise awareness and improve safety for all Kiwis on our roads.

Police say many of the 93 people who died in crashes last year while not properly restrained, could have survived had they been wearing a seatbelt.

Today we find out what solutions, if any, could reduce this soaring death rate.

Our message is simple.

Seatbelts save lives - Belt Up New Zealand.

• Safety belts save lives.

• They support you if you're in a crash or when a vehicle stops suddenly.

• The force on safety belts can be as much as 20 times your weight - this is how hard you'd hit the inside of your vehicle without restraint.

• Wearing a safety belt reduces your chance of death or serious injury in a crash by 40 per cent.

• Whether you sit in the front or the back seat, the risk of serious or fatal injury is virtually the same.

• NZ law requires drivers and passengers in cars and other motor vehicles to wear seat belts and child restraints.

• In the past five years, more than 300 people who died in NZ crashes were not wearing their seat belt.

• Many would still be alive today if they were safely wearing their seatbelts.

(Source NZTA, MOT, NZ Police)