An elderly motorist diced with death by driving several miles the wrong way on the M23 until stopped in the Crawley area.
Night-time video footage reveals how the motorist drove six miles southH while in the outside lane of the north-bound carriageway.
He set off in the wrong direction after pulling onto the hard shoulder and making a U-turn.
Despite oncoming headlights and evasive action taken by other motorists, the errant driver’s blue Volkswagen Polo hatchback continued doggedly in the wrong direction until police caught up with him near Maidenbower, Crawley.
A Sussex Police statement adds that having pleaded guilty to dangerous driving, Keith Taylor, 79, from New Road, Burnham Overy Staithe, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was sentenced by magistrates in Norfolk on 25 July to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.
He was also disqualified from driving for two years and told he must take an extended driving test before reapplying for his licence.
Following the case, Sussex roads policing officer PC Mark Botevyle said: “ In more than 15 years as a police officer I have never encountered anything with such potential to have caused a major tragedy.
“It was around 15 minutes past midnight in the early hours of 28 January when this incident occurred. I was on patrol in a marked police car with my colleague PC Wayne Dixon when we were alerted by a radio message.
“The M23 was busy with traffic and it was only by sheer chance that no collision occurred. Clearly there was potential for a major pile-up and I am still amazed that this incident did not have more serious consequences.”
PC Botevyle said it appeared that the motorist had earlier left an inbound flight at Gatwick Airport but had then became confused as to which way he should be driving.
He said: “This all happened in darkness, adding to concerns that there might be a crash, and it is a timely reminder to all drivers never to let their concentration lapse.
“The best advice is to plan your journey properly, to make sure you are fit to drive and not to begin a journey if you are tired.
“If you do feel sleepy, stop in a safe place and rest. Do not stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway unless in an emergency.”
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