A WOMAN caught driving the wrong way down the M40 in Oxford said she was “having a panic attack”.

Anne Ashley has been sentenced after driving in the opposite direction on the hard shoulder “at speed” between junction 8A and junction 9 on November 7 last year.

The 20-year-old said she was experiencing a panic attack after getting caught in traffic after a collision between 11am and 11.30am.

READ MORE: Temporary traffic lights to cause long delays on major Oxford road until October

After driving the wrong way looking for “an SOS point”, she then re-joined traffic. Other motorists described the Coventry woman’s driving as “petrifying” and she was sent a prosecution notice days later for dangerous driving.

Prosecuting, Ann Sawyer-Brandish told Oxford Magistrates Court today (September 21): “There was a serious collision that had occurred between junction 8A and junction 9 which required traffic to be halted in both directions so the emergency services could be given space to deal with the accident.

“The police started to receive calls that a vehicle was travelling at speed on the hard shoulder against the stationary traffic.

“One witness, who is a traffic management officer, said he saw the vehicle travelling towards him in lane one [before he hit the traffic].

“Flashing his headlights, he had to swerve into lane two to avoid that vehicle. He saw the vehicle move onto the hard shoulder.

READ MORE: Investigation into death of man, 73, killed by lorry in Chipping Norton

“He said he was petrified the car would hit him. He then saw the same vehicle re-join the motorway beside him.

“He was unable to drive for a couple of days after because he was so scared of the manner of driving.”

Ms Sawyer-Brandish added that there were multiple witnesses who had recorded Ashley’s registration number for the police.

“There was a significant risk of injury to other drivers,” she said. “It could have had a catastrophic impact.”

Mitigating, Mavalynne Lewis said Ashley had experienced a panic attack when the traffic became stationary and “signalled onto the hard shoulder to try and find an SOS point.”

“She realised that it was really dangerous and she didn’t know why she was doing it,” Ms Lewis said. “She got back into stationary traffic as soon as she realised her behaviour was wrong.

“She disagrees that she was driving in lane one and it was not at the highest speed that I may have been perceived as by others.

“She does show remorse and she understands that she is lucky nothing happened.”

READ MORE: Loved charity faces closure AGAIN after new premise falls through

Ashley has been disqualified from driving for 20 months and will be required to take an extended retest.

She was also sentenced to 12 months community order, 250 hours of unpaid work and a £180 fine.


Read more from this author

This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

A message from our Editor

Thank you for reading this story and supporting the Oxford Mail.

If you like what we do please consider getting a subscription for the Oxford Mail and in return we’ll give you unrestricted access with less adverts across our website from the latest news, investigations, features, and sport.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tik Tok for more. 

You can also join the conversation in our Facebook groups: stay ahead of traffic alerts here, keep up to date with the latest from court here, share your favourite memories of Oxford here, get your daily dose of celebrity news here and take some time out with news that will make you smile. 

If you’ve got a story for our reporters, send us your news here. You can also list an event for free here.