'Frightening' rise of Britons driving the wrong way on motorways with two incidents a day

Police standing over a UK motorway

Motoring experts are warning drivers to never drive against the traffic on the motorway

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Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves


Published: 14/08/2023

- 12:41

Motoring experts said that motorists would almost certainly be held liable for any accidents that take place when driving the wrong way

The number of people driving the wrong way on England’s motorways has grown by 13 per cent in just one year.

Staggering new data has shown 872 incidents involving “oncoming vehicles” were reported on English motorways since last June.


This represents a huge increase compared to the previous year, where around 770 instances of people going the wrong way took place.

On average, there are 16 instances of this happening every week – a terrifying statistic for all UK motorists.

A UK motorway

There are an average of 16 incidents a week

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The National Highways figures relate to “unconfirmed reports” of wrong-way driving, with more than two a day taking place, with experts calling the data "frightening".

Sheena Hague, National Highways director of road safety, said that safety was the top priority, with traffic officers called out to thousands of incidents a year.

She added: “Thankfully the number of reports of oncoming vehicles is low, however, we treat them seriously by setting signals to warn and inform drivers for every report of a vehicle driving the wrong way on our motorways.

“We design our motorways to be as intuitive as possible to reduce the likelihood of anyone driving the wrong way.”

Footage has been shared by a number of police forces, including Gloucestershire Constabulary, showing some instances of criminal actions.

One video showed a drunk woman driving the wrong way on the M5 for more than two miles which ultimately caused a four-car crash.

Speaking to GB News, Joshua Hughes, partner in the complex injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “The legal implications, both criminal and civil, will be very significant for those who have caused injury by driving the wrong way down a motorway.

“They will, of course, be committing a criminal offence, oftentimes aggravated by alcohol and/or drug use punishable with fines, points, bans or, depending on the consequences of their actions, a prison sentence.

“It is near-impossible to envisage a scenario whereby someone driving the wrong way on a motorway will not be found liable for injuries caused to others.

“In those circumstances, the victim will be entitled to bring a civil claim against the Defendant driver via their motor insurance policy (if insured) and recover compensation for their injuries."

Anyone who witnesses someone driving the wrong way on the motorway is urged to stop somewhere safe and call 999 or use an SOS phone on the side of the road.

According to PA, speed limits are usually slashed to 20mph in the event that someone is driving the wrong way on the motorway to reduce the likelihood of a crash.

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A UK motorway

Drivers who witness someone driving the wrong way should call 999 when they can

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Edmund King, president of the AA, said there was “absolutely no excuse” for people to be driving the wrong way, adding that any drunk drivers should not be on the roads.

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