Heartbroken mother of teenager killed in North Wales crash calls for tougher controls on new drivers

Crystal Owen, mother of Harvey, is calling for restrictions on new drivers after her son drowned in car crash in Gwynedd

Matt Mathers
Thursday 29 February 2024 12:03 GMT
Mother calls for tighter new driver rules after teenage son drowns in North Wales car crash

The mother of one of four teenagers who drowned in car crash in North Wales has said she doesn’t want the boys to have died “in vain” as she called for tougher rules on new drivers.

Crystal Owen’s son Harvey, 17, was tragically discovered in an overturned car in a ditch in Gwynedd on 21 November, along with friends Jevon Hirst, 16, Wilf Fitchett, 17, and Hugo Morris, 18.

The four teenagers from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, who were studying for their A-levels, were on their way to a camping trip in Snowdonia when the silver Ford Fiesta they were travelling in careered off the A4085.

“My son lied to me about where he was going and how he was getting there,” a visibly emotional Ms Owen told the BBC.

Top left to right Hugo Morris, Jevon Hirst, Wilf Fitchett and Harvey Owen (Supplied)

“And that’s the thing - teenagers will do that. Harvey was just looking for an adventure that weekend.”

“Unfortunately, it’s the last day he’ll ever have,” she added while choking back tears.

Following her son’s death, Ms Owen called on the government to introduce tighter restrictions on motorists who had recently passed their test.

She said it was a “lightbulb” moment when a friend told her about “graduated” driving licences and questioned why they had not been introduced in the UK.

Graduated licensing schemes already operate in New Zealand; New South Wales and Victoria in Australia; New York and California in the USA; Ontario and British Columbia in Canada and in Sweden.

The schemes can place restrictions on new drivers, such as a minimum learning period, not driving at night, or not driving with passengers under a certain age in the car.

In 2019 the UK considered introducing graduated licences in a bid to improve safety on the roads.

Photographs of Jevon Hirst, Harvey Owen, Wilf Fitchett and Hugo Morris inside Shrewsbury Abbey, where people paid their respects (PA) (PA Wire)

But the plans were subsequently scrapped, following consultations, despite research suggesting they could save lives.

Ministers said they ruled out graduated licences partly due to the potential impact of restrictions on young people’s employment.

Ms Owen added: “You only need to look at some basic statistics around graduated licences and how they are proven for decades to work.” She has launched a petition demanding action.

It calls for:

  • A minimum learning period of 40hrs to help young drivers gain skills and experience on different roads under different conditions
  • No carrying passengers 25 and under for the first year
  • Restrictions on driving at night between midnight and 6am
  • Mandatory hazard perception training

Under current rules, new drivers can have their licences revoked if they accumulate six points within the first two years - equivalent to the number points for using a handheld mobile phone while driving or two speeding offences.

The government changed the driving test in December 2017 to reflect modern-world driving conditions, including adding a satellite navigation section.

Learner drivers are now also allowed to travel on motorways with an approved driving instructor to acclimatise new drivers to these roads.

An inquest opening into the death of the four teenagers heard they died by drowning. No date has been set for the full inquest hearing.

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