John Maher doesn't want any other family to endure the pain and tragedy he has.
In 1995, Mr Maher's daughter Carmen died after she fell asleep at the wheel and crashed her car just five kilometres from their Longlea home.
Two years later, when four people died in an Eaglehawk car crash, Mr Maher began touring schools and corporate events to teach road safety.
Now the campaigner is about to release a book titled Carmen's Legacy about what his family went through. It comes with a road safety message he hopes will be taught in schools to students studying for their driving licence.
Mr Maher said the book had been 20 years in the making, but the journey actually began in 1993 when he was seriously injured in a car crash at Axedale.
"Sadly, a young girl lost her life in that car crash," he said.
"She had only had a licence for 23 days and she lost control of her four-wheel drive and crashed into my car.
"Two-and-a-half years later, in November 1995, we lost Carmen when she brought her best friend into work at McDonald's on a Saturday morning.
"Her best friend (also named Carmen) had come home from secondary college and stayed at our house on the Friday night. What we didn't know was the two girls had talked in the bedroom until 4.30am.
"Carmen had to run (her friend) Carmen in to McDonald's, where she worked. On the way home, our Carmen went to sleep at the wheel, just five kilometres from home, hit a tree and was killed instantly."
A young policeman got out of the car, he was crying, and he said there's been a car accident and it's Carmen, she's gone. I said 'Where's she gone to?'- John Maher
Adding to the family's tragedy was that Carmen's sister Michelle was the third person on the scene. She travelled home with a police officer to tell Mr Maher his daughter had died.
"We were (getting ready to) come into Bendigo and saw the flashes of a car going behind the trees and slowing down to come in our driveway," Mr Maher said.
"Instead of Carmen driving in, a police car drove in. And Michelle was in the back seat, which we didn't know at the time.
"A young policeman got out of the car, he was crying, and he said there's been a car accident and it's Carmen, she's gone. I said 'Where's she gone to?'
"All he could get out because he was crying so much was 'Carmen's gone'.
Then the back door of the police car opened and Michelle stepped out with tears streaming down her face. That's how we learnt that Carmen, who was 18 years and three months old, had just been killed in a car accident.
"She was like the lucky one actually that day, because she was killed instantly. We had to try and put our lives together and continue on."
Since starting his road safety campaign in 1997 - named Carmen Road Safety - Mr Maher has spoken to more than 450,000 students and almost 400,000 other people at conferences and seminars.
Two years into the road safety presentations, Mr Maher almost stopped because of the emotional toll it took on him.
It was wanting to have Carmen with him each day that kept him going.
"I would finish a presentation, drive around the corner from the school and I'd sit in the car and cry because I've just gone through Carmen dying again," he said. "My family wanted me to give it away because they knew how it was affecting me.
"I went to a school the next day after deciding to give it away. And I stood up in front of the students and halfway through I said 'do you know what you've done for me today? You have put Carmen back in my life for another hour'.
"I understood then that if I ever gave this up Carmen wouldn't be with me every day. She would be in the cemetery. But she travels with me everywhere."
That same year, Mr Maher started writing Carmen's Legacy.
"It has been really cathartic - speaking at conferences and at schools," he said. "This (book) was not cathartic at all. It was like getting stabbed in the heart every time I wrote a word down about how we lost Carmen in that car crash.
"The hardest thing I've ever done since burying Carmen was to write this book. I was a mid 50s-year-old man sitting at a computer screen crying.
The hardest thing I've ever done since burying Carmen was to write this book.- John Maher
"I handled writing my section where I had my car crash pretty good. But then, to put down what happened to Carmen, word by word, it was just so confronting.
"But I needed Carmen's Road Safety message to be put in print so that when I'm finished giving talks, Carmen's message can live on and continue to be told."
Carmen's three sisters - Michelle, Katrina and Jasmine - have also contributed chapters to Carmen's Legacy.
"What happened to us has happened to far too many families in the past, and it will happen to far too many families in the future," Mr Maher said. "I am really proud with the fact that Michelle, Katrina and Jasmine all wrote a chapter. Michelle's chapter is really confronting, because she was the first one on the scene."
Mr Maher's road safety presentations have evolved through the years to discuss other major issues that cause serious car crashes.
"I spend a good bit of time on fatigue (and) phones are a huge issue but the thing that worries me the most and frightens me the most in life, and on the roads, are people who are driving under the influence of drugs," he said.
"If you decide to get into the (drug) scene, or you're in that scene, please never ever sit behind the steering wheel. Because it's proven that you are 24 times more likely to have a crash."
Mr Maher said he was working to have Carmen's Legacy included on the English curriculum for year 10 students. He said it had the potential to bring families together and make future drivers safer on the roads.
"It is a book of truth. It is a book of hope," he said. "It's a book of understanding of who you are as a road user and as a family member, and how important you are to your family.
"My goal is to get this into the education system in Australia at year 10 level because that when students are learning to drive.
"Let's educate them. Let's not have them read Othello for English. Let's teach them a life skill."
Carmen's Legacy launches in Bendigo at the Bendigo Harness Club on May 9 at 7pm. For more details visit www.carmen.com.au
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