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Incidents of vehicles driven the wrong way on motorways up after 872 in a year

Reports of vehicles being driven the wrong way on England’s motorways rose by 13% in a year, figures from National Highways reveal.

The data, obtained by the PA news agency through a Freedom of Information request, show there were 872 reported incidents involving ‘oncoming vehicles’ in the year to 19 June.

That was up from 770 in the previous 12-month period. It is an average of 16 every week.

According to PA “one of the most serious incidents in recent years left three men dead when a stolen van was driven in the wrong direction by a 15-year-old boy and crashed into a taxi on the M606 near Bradford, West Yorkshire in June 2022.”

Speed limits are usually cut to 20mph on motorway stretches where a vehicle being driven towards other traffic is reported.

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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.”

Last month the RAC Foundation published a report on the potential benefits of connected vehicles including in the field of road safety.

As well as drivers making ‘honest mistakes’ and driving the wrong way down a slip road or on a motorway there are likely to be many other reasons people find themselves in this situation including: driving whilst impaired by drink or drugs or because of a medical condition affecting ability to drive.
Following a pilot scheme run by the RAC Foundation ministers have committed to introducing a Road Collision Investigation Branch (RCIB) to help improve road safety. One of the tasks of the RCIB would be to identify common threads between road collisions and look behind the headline causes.

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