Chris Welch has spent two decades advocating road safety. Now, the Bay of Plenty driving instructor's life has turned full circle after she was seriously injured in a high speed crash.

Welch, the owner of Western Bay Driving School, suffered multiple injuries after her van collided with a car on State Highway 2 at Apata, west of Tauranga, on September 24. The police investigation into the crash is ongoing.

The crash knocked Welch unconscious and left her with a broken femur, sternum, nose and toe, as well as broken ribs, a fractured spine and a black eye. Her right leg may have to be amputated.

Her van was "an absolute mess" which looked like it had been "chewed up and spat through a grinder".


Welch, also a Defensive Driving facilitator and motorcycle instructor, was on her way home from taking an ACC-funded Ride Forever motorcycle training course when the crash occurred.

Apata residents have called for improvements to be made to the crash site, but Welch believes the road isn't the issue.

"It's drivers' mentality that needs to change. People have to realise that if they can't drive for any reason whether it's fatigue or they're drunk or whatever they need to take that responsibility [and not drive]."

Drivers needed to be more aware generally.

"Bike riders know they're fragile. They're constantly looking ahead. They want to know how to be safe and are always upskilling. A lot of drivers just get in their car and go."

It's not the first crash to affect Welch. Three years ago, her partner was hit by a drunk driver on a Saturday afternoon while riding.

Welch believed driver behaviour had only got worse as a result of more distractions, more traffic on the road and people having busier lifestyles.

She became an instructor in the UK after two years of training. She believed there should be higher standards for becoming an instructor and for getting licences here.

"In the UK, I would spend nearly 40 hours with a student before they went for their test. In New Zealand, I'm lucky if I spend more than three hours with them."

But she was unsure what more police or other agencies could do to get safety messages through to motorists.

"People have the mentality 'it won't happen to me'. How can you change people's thinking if they haven't been involved in something like this?

"It's about personal responsibility and realising you're not invincible."

Welch has just this week been able to get out of her hospital bed and into a wheelchair. Doctors say her recovery could take 12 months.

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