Mums call for tougher laws after crash tragedy

Susan Stewart, mother of Joshua. Picture: contributed
Susan Stewart, mother of Joshua. Picture: contributed
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Two mothers who lost their teenage sons in a horrific car crash today vowed to campaign for tougher laws on young drivers.

Susan Stewart and Andrea Kelly said they were determined to make sure other families do not go through the same “torture” as they have over the past year.

Andrea Kelly with her son, David Armstrong. Picture: contributed

Andrea Kelly with her son, David Armstrong. Picture: contributed

They spoke out on the first anniversary of the tragic accident which claimed the lives of their sons, Joshua Stewart, 16, and 15-year-old David Armstrong, and their friend, Jenna Barbour, 18.

In September, Robbie Gemmell, 17, was given a four-year driving ban and 300 hours of unpaid work after admitting causing the crash by driving without due care and attention at Tyninghame, near 
Dunbar.

As the tragic anniversary is marked at memorial events in Dunbar this week, Joshua and David’s mums have strengthened their resolve to campaign for stricter rules for young drivers.

Among their ideas are curfews and limits on the number of passengers – measures which have already been adopted in countries, including Australia and the United States.

Mrs Stewart said she was hopeful road safety charity Brake would throw its weight behind her drive to spread the message.

She said: “They are all getting behind the wheel of a car and your heart’s in your mouth the whole time. I do think that the government should increase the driving age.

“I’m looking at what they do in America – there are more rules after a certain time at night. I don’t see why they can’t do it here.

“A lot of insurance companies are now getting speed meters fitted in young people’s cars, and say they will only insure young drivers up to a certain time at night.”

Ms Kelly said something had to be done to protect others from the “awful consequences of irresponsible driving”.

She said: “I don’t think you should be allowed passengers in you car till you’ve had at least three years’ experience.

“No family should have to go through what we are going through – it’s torture.

“I will never know what my son’s future would have been – his career, getting married, and grandchildren all taken away from me.”

Ed Morrow, campaigns officer for Brake, said he was keen to support the victims’ parents, and estimated that stricter measures could save 200 young lives a year.

He said: “It’s an epidemic that the government has to act now to stop, before more young lives are tragically wasted.

“Brake has long campaigned to reform the way young people learn to drive, by introducing a system of graduated driver licensing that allows them to develop skills and experience gradually while less exposed to danger.

“Graduated driver licensing works in other countries, and there’s a growing consensus that we need it here too.”

Today, poignant tributes to the three crash victims, written on wooden hearts by friends and family, will be hung on trees at the memorial garden near the crash site at Tyninghame.

This evening, a memorial tree – featuring a plaque donated by the three families which says “forever in our hearts” – will be unveiled at St Anne’s Church, at Dunbar’s Westgate.

Members of the public are expected to gather there at 8pm, and a minute’s silence will be held at 8.30pm.

Firefighters will join family members in laying wreaths before the crowd moves to Dunbar harbour to release Chinese lanterns.

Dunbar Grammar School, which all three victims attended, will also hold a minute’s silence today, before a special service is held in the school hall tomorrow at 6.30pm.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of kids there,” said Mrs Stewart. “We will be celebrating their lives rather than talking about their deaths.

“It’s never going to fade, all you can hope for is for it to get easier. First anniversaries are always hard.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com