TWENTY years have passed, the pain has dulled a little but the message that John Maher wants to get across is still the same.
John lost his youngest daughter, Carmen, in a car accident two decades ago when she was only eighteen. Two years prior Mr Maher was himself involved in a horrific car crash “I had a car accident in Axedale when a young girl lost control of her 4WD,” he said.
“I came to a complete stop on the highway, she rolled up the road, bounced up in the air and landed upside down on the bonnet of my car – I was really badly injured and tragically Emma was killed – she’d only had her licence for 23 days.”
Two years later worse was to come.
Carmen was a year twelve student at Catholic College in Bendigo.
On a sunny morning in November 1995 Carmen drove her best friend to work after a sleepover. “What we didn’t know was that the two girls had talked until 4.30 in the morning,” Mr Maher said.
“Thankfully Carmen dropped her friend off at McDonalds in Bendigo and on her way home Carmen went to sleep at the wheel and hit a tree at 7 minutes past eight in the morning. “My eldest daughter, Michelle, who lives at Bungaree, was on her way to work and came across Carmen’s car crash” “That, obviously, was a tremendously traumatic thing for our family and I didn’t realize back then but it didn’t take me long to realize that Carmen was the lucky one that morning because she was killed, we were the ones who had to bury her and try to live with what had happened.”
After his own accident Mr Maher was told he would never work again but two years after losing Carmen another four students were killed on Bendigo roads. That’s when he decided to stop feeling sorry for himself and to do what he could to save young lives. “So I’ve been taking Carmen’s Road Safety message to schools all around Australia for the past seventeen years and every year I speak to 80 schools at least and about 16,000 students a year hear all about Carmen and how we lost her and those students understand should they do what Carmen did to us, should they do that to their family, what their mum and dad, brothers and sisters and friends would have to live with,” Mr Maher said. In 2014 he ran a very successful free Carmen Road Safety presentation at the Regent Cinemas in Ballarat and next Monday Mr Maher will be presenting it, again. “I’m indebted and applaud the generosity of the cinemas for providing their venue, free again,” he said. “I will be speaking from 7-8pm and I would love to fill the cinemas here, so for parents who are at home worrying of a night time whether their children will get home safe, bring them to Carmen’s Road Safety Presentation on Monday.”