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

The Herald, in partnership with the New Zealand Police has launched Belt Up, a four-day series about seatbelt 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 - the most of any single year - while not properly restrained, could have survived had they been wearing a seatbelt.

Today we look at what is happening out on our roads.


Our message is simple.

Seatbelts save lives - Belt Up New Zealand.

"She was the brightest, loveliest girl ever.

"She was always smiling and never liked anyone being sad.

"She loved everyone and enjoyed life so much.

"Everyone will miss her so much and will never be forgotten."

And she could still be alive today if she had been wearing a seatbelt.

Toni Kelsall, 19, died on June 2, 2016, in a crash on Wattle Farm Rd, Auckland.

The above words were written on a Facebook page by her sister, a poignant and heartfelt tribute to a life cut short.

Kelsall was one of almost 100 people who died on New Zealand roads in crashes where they were unrestrained last year.

But her life was not the only one destroyed in the crash that killed her.

Her boyfriend Chase Tangaroa, 21, was driving that day, and is said to be "haunted" by the death of his love.

The Herald was in court in July when Tangaroa was convicted for careless driving causing Kelsall's death.

He was convicted and disqualified from driving for 12 months - his application for a discharge without conviction tossed out by Judge David McNaughton.

The court heard that Kelsall died from serious head injuries when the Ford Falcon Tangaroa was driving hit the back of a parked truck just before 8am on Auckland's Wattle Farm Rd, a 50km/h zone, on June 2 last year.

The truck was parked to the left side of the road but hidden from drivers because of morning sunstrike.

The impact of the crash crushed the passenger's side of the car where Toni was sitting.

"Your girlfriend was not wearing a seatbelt, but as far as I'm concerned you needed to take responsibility for that as well," said Judge McNaughton at sentencing.

"I know you are going to carry the guilt for the rest of your life.

"Clearly all of you loved her dearly and all of you are struggling to move on from this tragedy."

The car Chase Tangaroa was driving when he crashed, killing girlfriend Toni Kelsall - who was not wearing a seatbelt. Photograph TVNZ
The car Chase Tangaroa was driving when he crashed, killing girlfriend Toni Kelsall - who was not wearing a seatbelt. Photograph TVNZ

The court heard that Tangaroa had turned to alcohol to help him cope with the loss.

As he hit the bottle, a memorial was held for his dead girlfriend. Family and friends retraced the route she and Tangaroa took that fateful day.

Burdened with a heavy sense of guilt, Tangaroa has apologised to Kelsall's family several times.

Judge McNaughton felt that was a harsh enough consequence for the young man.

"The harm that's been caused to the victim's family is significant. The grief that he carries for the rest of his life is punishment enough," he said.

Kelsall's mother Lynda wrote a victim impact statement for the court.

She revealed that she had "difficulty accepting the fact that my daughter is gone and will never return".

After the fatal crash Kelsall's family tried to stay in contact with Tangaroa and support him.

Judge McNaughton said Tangaroa was unlikely to reoffend given the "trauma involved and the burden he now has".

But he declined Tangaroa's application for a discharge without conviction - filed because the he works in construction and operates heavy trucks and diggers.

"It seems that an employer should know what your driving history is, not just for your safety but the entire workplace," said Judge McNaughton.

He also revealed that Tangaroa had a demerit point history for speeding, had his license suspended for three months in 2014, and had a significant history of poor driving from 2012 to 2016.

Judge McNaughton said there was a public interest to convict Tangaroa, but also a public interest to help him.

Tangaroa and Kelsall's father and sister declined to speak about the tragedy.

• 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 crashes in New Zealand were not wearing a seat belt.

• Many of these people would still be alive today if they were wearing a seat belt.

(Source NZTA, MOT, NZ Police)