If it wasn't for his seat belt, Jazz Tevaga reckons he'd be dead.

The Warriors' star hooker had fallen asleep at the wheel, crossed the centre line, smashed into an oncoming vehicle and then into a ditch, where his dad's 4WD truck came to rest on its side.

He was shaken and embarrassed, but the then-20-year-old was alive. So were his two passengers and the driver of the oncoming vehicle, who by chance was the father of one Tevaga's passengers.

Jazz Tevaga, centre, congratulates Warriors teammate Ben Matulino after the latter scored against the Knights in 2016. File photo / Nick Reed
Jazz Tevaga, centre, congratulates Warriors teammate Ben Matulino after the latter scored against the Knights in 2016. File photo / Nick Reed

All had been buckled up and Tevaga, now 23, has joined his fellow Warriors in a joint campaign with Auckland Transport, the Blues and the Northern Stars to spread the message that seat belts save lives.

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The campaign, which includes posters, bus ads, online video and radio, begins tomorrow.

Tevaga, who was afraid to drive for several weeks after the November 2015 crash, said the incident was "definitely something I'm not proud of".

But he put those feelings aside to share his story in the hope it would convince others to wear their seat belts.

"I think if I wasn't wearing my seat belt I probably would've gone through the
windscreen.

"Seat belts save lives. I saw the stats the other day and 171 people have died or been seriously injured [in the past five years due to not wearing a seat belt] and yeah, it's just shocking really."

Jazz Tevaga, pictured in the Warriors match against the Storm at Mt Smart last year. File photo / Jason Oxenham
Jazz Tevaga, pictured in the Warriors match against the Storm at Mt Smart last year. File photo / Jason Oxenham

The Samoa international, who joined the Warriors' line-up in 2016, was the sober driver after a night out with two mates and was just five minutes' drive from home when he crashed on Mill Rd in Papakura.

"We had training that Friday [the day before] and I think I was just overtired. On the way home the boys were asleep, it was about 5am and I crashed.

"One of my best mates was in the back seat and I crashed into his old man going to
work ... I dozed off, crossed the centre line, and he obviously saw me coming, so he turned to his left and I smashed the back of his ute, and then he spun out and I went straight into the ditch."

Warriors, from left, Leeson Ah Mau, Jazz Tevaga and Leivaha Pulu are among players from three sporting codes that have joined with Auckland Transport on a seat belt campaign. Photo / Supplied
Warriors, from left, Leeson Ah Mau, Jazz Tevaga and Leivaha Pulu are among players from three sporting codes that have joined with Auckland Transport on a seat belt campaign. Photo / Supplied

No one was hurt, but the vehicle Tevaga was driving was written off. The other vehicle in the crash was "pretty munted", but salvageable.

"It took me a while to pay it off, but thankfully no one got hurt."

Thanks to his parents, he had always worn his seat belt, and Tevaga urged everyone to get into the habit.

"It only takes what, 10 seconds of your time? You don't know when someone's going to crash into you, or you're going to crash. It's just not worth the risk."

Knights' Korbin Sims is taken down by the Warriors Jazz Tevaga, in his debut season in 2016. File photo / Nick Reed
Knights' Korbin Sims is taken down by the Warriors Jazz Tevaga, in his debut season in 2016. File photo / Nick Reed

It had weighed on him that his mistake could have cost four lives.

"I had my mate in the back and I crashed into his dad. I could've easily taken both their lives. It was a big wake-up call."

Auckland Transport chief executive Shane Ellison said seat belt use was a simple and essential thing people could do to reduce the risk of death or injury in vehicle crashes.

"Yet we know that a number of people continue to ignore this. We hope this new campaign will help change this behaviour and put an end to unnecessary road deaths in our region."

Buckle up

• More than 170 people have been killed or seriously injured in the past five years due to not wearing a seat belt.

• The force on seat belts in a crash can be as much as 20 times your weight.

• All modern cars in New Zealand must be fitted with seat belts. Older vehicles may require webbing clamps to improve the hold of their belts.

*Source: Auckland Transport / NZTA