Wrong way driving


15 August 2023


Response to media coverage on 14 August 2023  

A range of media outlets have carried a story claiming the number of reports of vehicles being driven the wrong way on England’s motorways rose by 13% in a year.

The figures were obtained by the Press Association (PA) news agency following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request and suggested 872 incidents involving ‘oncoming vehicles’ were reported on England’s motorways in the year to June 19 - up from 770 during the previous 12 months and representing an average of more than 16 every week.

We treat these incidents very seriously but it’s worth noting the limitations in the figures being quoted as they relate to unconfirmed reports of wrong way driving received by National Highways’ regional operations centres.

As such, they don’t necessarily represent the number of times vehicles have travelled the wrong way on a carriageway.

Rather, the data provided shows where a staff member in a regional operations centre has used the closure code for ‘an oncoming vehicle’, in the relevant system, which means an oncoming vehicle was reported to have been involved in some way.

When incidents of wrong way driving take place, we typically lower the speed limit to 20mph due to the high risk.

National Highways’ director of road safety Sheena Hague says: “Safety is our top priority and our traffic officers are called out to hundreds of thousands of incidents each year, including collisions, breakdowns and debris.

“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. If you spot anyone driving the wrong way we urge you to call 999, if safe to do so, use the eCall/SOS if your vehicle has one or use one of the motorway SOS phones to alert us as quickly as possible.”

View the FOI: The number of incidents where the incident closure code for 'an oncoming vehicle' has been used.