Carmen Maher had her whole life ahead of her when the car she was driving ran off the road and slammed into a tree.

The 18-year-old Bendigo woman sustained critical injuries and died instantly.

Her parents John and Ange have been left to live with the repercussions of their youngest daughter's death for nearly three decades.

Mr Maher has subsequently committed his life to educating young people about the danger of fatigue and has been to hundreds of schools spreading Carmen's message and tells students about the beautiful, vivacious daughter he lost.

"Carmen's story is so powerful because Carmen was so young when she lost her life because of fatigue," he said.

"Carmen is empowering the students to put themselves in her place."

Road safety advocate John Maher returned to Lara Secondary School to talk on road safety. John has regularly visited year 11 and 12 students and teachers say the impact is remarkable. Picture: Alan Barber
Road safety advocate John Maher returned to Lara Secondary School to talk on road safety. John has regularly visited year 11 and 12 students and teachers say the impact is remarkable. Picture: Alan Barber

He shows them the picture of his daughter that he keeps on his key ring and he tells of the heartbreak and guilt Carmen's older sister Michelle felt.

Michelle was the last person to see Carmen, who was tired, and said if she turned the radio up and wound the windows down she'd be OK.

Mr Maher always leaves each student with a bookmark bearing Carmen's face, as a reminder of what he has lost.

He said when Year 11 and 12 students see this image of bubbly, young Carmen the true cost of road trauma hits home.

Lara Secondary College captain Jakota Martin said hearing Mr Maher speak last week gave him "goosebumps".

"He was teaching us about the impact driving has on our parents and that if something happened to us, it would impact them," he said.

Jakota, who is a learner driver, said it was so easy to speed and be careless.

"Now, I will think about my Mum and what losing me would leave her feeling," he said

Senior program co-ordinator Ben Johnson said the personal way Mr Maher shared his story allowed the students to connect with Carmen and understand the impact of road trauma.

Mr Maher said while the number of lives lost had decreased dramatically since Carmen's death in 1995, there is still work to be done.

"It is in the hands of each individual, the driver and who they travel with," he said.

"If they are uncomfortable with something they need to think if they are prepared to take that risk or be strong enough to speak up."

Originally published as 'Goosebumps': daughter's death sparks dad to protect students


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