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Incidents of vehicles going the wrong way on England’s motorways rose last year
Seeing a car speeding towards you down the motorway is the stuff of nightmares – and action movies – but it’s been getting much more common in the last year.
Incidents of vehicles going the wrong way on England’s motorways rose to 872 in the 12 months to 19 June, up from 770 the previous year, according to data from National Highways, a government agency.
The mistakes have sometimes been lethal, and are thought to be linked to drivers relying too heavily on satnavs, as well as drink driving.
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Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “The increase in the number of vehicles being driven in the wrong direction on motorways is frightening and can be fatal.
“Various incidents seem to be clearly down to drunk drivers for which there is absolutely no excuse. These drunk drivers should not be on the roads.
“Generally the slip road layout and signage is designed to ensure joining the motorway in the right direction is intuitive.
“However, sometimes drivers follow satnav directions without thinking, for example, to ‘take the third exit’, without actually checking the signage, and therefore they can make mistakes.”
The data was released in response to a Freedom of Information request by PA news agency.
Recent incidents include three men dying in June 2022 when a 15-year-old boy drove a stolen van the wrong way down a motorway near Bradford and crashed into a taxi.
In Gloucestershire, four vehicles were involved in a crash caused by a drunk woman driving the wrong way for more than two miles along a motorway in October 2022.
West Mercia police said a VW Golf involved in a head-on crash with a van was thought to have been “deliberately driven in the wrong direction at speed” on a motorway in Worcestershire.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “To most drivers it’s the stuff of nightmares to think that anyone could drive the wrong way down a motorway.
“Yet despite highway engineers’ best efforts to make it hard to mistake the off-ramp for a slip road, these numbers show there’s a lot more work to be done.
“Could more be done with technology – perhaps slip-road sensors that trigger roadside warnings?
“The ability of information to be fed to and from our increasingly connected and intelligent cars must create the opportunity for alerts to be generated and displayed within the vehicle.”
Jo Shiner, the National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for roads policing, said: “It’s so important to be aware and alert when driving.
“Please keep any distractions to a minimum and concentrate on the signs and information provided for your safety.”
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