CHRISTINE Lucke vividly remembers the first time she visited her son Hugo in the Acmena Juvenile Detention Centre in Grafton.

Standing before her in a white jumpsuit, and surrounded by strangers in the cold and sterile environment, he looked terrified.

It's the last place she had ever expected to find her teenage child.

But Ms Lucke accepted that there was a price to be paid for what Hugo had done.

The year before, the 17-year-old was driving home on the Pacific Highway after performing at an all-night dance music festival in Coffs Harbour, when he fell asleep at the wheel and swerved into oncoming traffic.

Tragically, the crash killed a local father and husband who was driving with his wife at the time.

Hugo was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death, pleaded guilty and was sentenced the following July to a minimum 10 months in juvenile detention.

Christine Lucke has now chosen to share her family's story in order to help promote the fundraising effort for a local driver education centre by community organisation Southern Cross LADS.

Christine Lucke, of Coorabell, is putting her support behind the Southern Cross LADS Driving School.
Christine Lucke, of Coorabell, is putting her support behind the Southern Cross LADS Driving School. Marc Stapelberg

Tears flow when Ms Lucke thinks back to the "harrowing" victim impact statement read out by the wife of the man who was killed in the accident.

"She talked about what she had felt through the whole process ... she talked about her relationship with her husband, and what a wonderful marriage they'd had. And she talked about the ongoing impact it had had on her family," she said.

"It was clear right from the outset that it was my son's fault.

"I've never had any doubt that it was necessary for (him) to be sentenced.

"Hugo shouldn't have been driving the car ... he was young, irresponsible and inexperienced and didn't know that when you are tired you should stop driving."

Hugo emerged from the whole experience a changed young man.

The crash, and accepting responsibility for his role in it, has "become very much a part of who he is", Ms Lucke said.

"He grew up about 10 years in a year ... and (came) out of it with a completely different world view.

"He is (now) incredibly sensible on the road.

"But it is something that he will carry with him for the rest of his life; there's no question about that at all."

That is why Ms Lucke understands the urgency of what Southern Cross LADS are trying to build.

"We live in an area with such incredibly dangerous roads, and the more prepared we can make kids before they venture out on to the roads, the better the chances of avoiding this sort of thing happening," she said.

"It's something that is so long overdue."

Now into its 10th year of raising money for the project, Southern Cross LADS (Learn About Driving Skills) has a development application approved by Lismore City Council and is ready to begin construction.

Ms Lucke has also told her story in a documentary made to promote the LADS goal, which will be launched at the Ballina Jockey Club next Wednesday, December 7.

"It will be a really valuable community asset and it's going to be owned by the whole community," Ms Lucke said of the planned education centre.

"All they need is that last push and this facility will be up and running.

"If you're thinking about giving some money to something, I think it's a fantastic cause."



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