The sight of a line of traffic grinding to a standstill made my heart sink.

I knew there could be only one reason commuters heading home from work were being brought to a sudden stop.

As the line of cars inched forward, the crash scene that claimed 21-year-old Manepo Tapsell-Wafer's life came into view.

Tears streamed down my face while I spoke to those first on the scene.

Just a day earlier, I had been sent to the scene of a horrific single-car crash on Tirohanga Rd that killed five people from the same family. I felt helpless in the face of such a shocking loss of life. My thoughts were with the whanau and their time of unimaginable grief.


Now, another family would be waiting for a loved one who would never make it home.

Again, I felt helpless. I hoped that I would be spared from that feeling - at least for a while. I wasn't.

Exactly a week later while travelling to work red and blue lights began flashing on the horizon. A cyclist had been hit off his bike on his daily commute to work and later died in Waikato Hospital.

In my job I have seen grown men cry and I have listened to people who have felt grief in every fibre of their being.

But nothing prepared me for the sight of emergency staff desperately trying to save a person's life.

Today, we report that 26 people in the Bay of Plenty police district have died on the roads this year. This is such a waste of life.

Police always tell us we need to pay attention to the road, to drive to the conditions and to never to drive impaired.

Their message has been the same for years, yet the road toll keeps rising.


Maybe people should accompany emergency staff to a crash scene or watch as a grieving family comes to identify their loved one.

Maybe they need to watch paramedics as they do everything they can to save someone's life.

Perhaps then, the harsh reality will hit home.

I hope the message sticks and not one more person is just another statistic from the Ministry of Transport's road toll spreadsheet.

As for me - that feeling of hopelessness may never fade but what I can do as a reporter is change that death from a statistic to a story.

I wasn't privileged to know these people, and now I never will be. But as a journalist, I can share their story and show that behind this country's shocking road toll statistics are lives cut tragically short, and families left broken.