A cold hospital room with a lifeless body on a steel table waiting for official identification.

It's a vivid memory and one Cathryn Baragwanath says she would rather forget.

It's also a tragedy that could have been avoided with one simple click of a seatbelt.

She identified her dead 26-year-old brother Hamlin David Simon after he was thrown from the vehicle he was driving after it slammed into an oncoming truck in wet weather on State Highway 1 near Maromaku last March.

Hamlin "Hamz" David Simon. Photo/Supplied

"A seatbelt can truly make the difference between seeing your crushed loved one on a steel table or going to visit them in hospital in a bed," Mrs Baragwanath said.

"We will never know what might have been if he was wearing a seatbelt but at least there would have been a chance he survived. As the police officer said there was no chance because he went straight through the windscreen without that seatbelt on.

"To see someone you love crushed on a silver table you can never forget it. You don't even look in anger, you look in disappointment at them ... a two-second action, that's all it takes."

Of the 40 fatalities on Northland roads last year 17 were the result of people not wearing seatbelts, including the father of two young children.

In New Zealand the penalty for not wearing a seatbelt is $150 for drivers and all passengers over 15.

But the ultimate price of not taking two seconds to lock in a seatbelt is a life.

Mrs Baragwanath has spoken out about her brother's death in the hope people take heed of frequent police messages to buckle up.

Mr Simon, or Hamz as he was known and the youngest of three siblings, was driving to Whangarei on November 10 last year, to collect a PlayStation 4 he had bought online and to drop off his PS3 he had sold.


But at 7.30am Mr Simon, who was speeding in the wet conditions, lost control on a bend and hit a truck, which was ironically making a delivery to his sister's Kawakawa cafe where he worked.

The impact threw him through the windscreen of his Suzuki four-wheel drive.

The truck driver held his hand and spoke with him as he died.

"That driver had only met Hamlin the day before at the cafe so at least he died with a warm, familiar face," Mrs Baragwanath said.

She said her brother was supposed to have started work in the cafe at 10am that day and by 11am she started making phone calls to find out where he was.

A call to his cellphone went unanswered.


News filtered through there had been a fatal crash and maybe he was stuck in the traffic.

But it was the midday television news that confirm the worst fears for the family.

"My whangae [foster] brother rang me and said: 'Sis it's Hamlin's ute on the news' then he hung up."

Police went to the family home at Pakaraka and broke the tragic news.

On the way to Whangarei Hospital they passed the crash scene where there were still pieces of the smashed vehicles on the road.

Now, there's a white cross marking the spot.


Mrs Baragwanath's wife Olive said the sombre roadside markers had never caught her eye until Mr Simon's death.

"A cross on the side of the road is nameless until it happens to you and then ... you really start to notice every cross."

The sound of the Kawakawa fire siren now invokes a new reaction.

"When that siren goes off and you know it's a fatality in Kawakawa this entire family stops and listens to it. That siren is insignificant to people until it belongs to you and then you can't get rid of it."

The ripple effect of the death is that Mr Simon's wider family and friends are ensuring seatbelts are worn.

"We were fierce about seatbelts before but residually what has happened is that it's made my children more mindful with other people who get in the car with them. They tell them to put their seatbelts on. My children don't let us move the car until we all have ours on."


Inspector Wayne Ewers, head of Northland road policing, said it was frustrating and devastating for police and other emergency service workers to be called to crashes where seatbelts were not worn.

"We are pushing and pushing the safety message but it comes down to personal responsibility and put your seatbelt on.

"Most of the 17 deaths [last year] could have been prevented if they simply put their belts on."

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 seatbelts and child restraints