Driver blames sat nav after smashing into woman’s car on wrong side of motorway

Akram Helal said his satnav was to blame for the crash in Newcastle (Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

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A driver who drove the wrong way down a motorway and smashed head-on into a woman's car blamed his sat nav for taking him the wrong way.

Akram Helal ended up travelling north in the southbound carriageway of the Central Motorway, in Newcastle, after crossing the Tyne Bridge.

A woman driving in the fast lane at about 40mph was shocked to see Helal, from Middlesbrough, coming straight at her and she had nowhere to go to avoid the collision.

Her car was written off and she suffered whiplash but, fortunately, avoided serious injury, reports Chronicle Live.

However she was unable to exercise and get into the shape she wanted for her forthcoming wedding.

The crash happened at around 9.30am on May 18, 2019, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said: "The defendant was driving the wrong way down the Central Motorway in Newcastle and he crashed into a car being driven by a woman who was on her way to work travelling on the correct side of the road.

"She had joined the Central Motorway southbound towards the Tyne Bridge and as she approached the Swan House roundabout she was in the fast lane doing about 40mph.

"She was aware there was a vehicle behind her and she thinks there was one alongside her.

"As she travelled under Swan House she saw the defendant's vehicle coming head on towards her in the wrong direction. She tried to move out of the way but there was nowhere to go.

"She collided with the vehicle on her front passenger side and she spun round and hit the barrier.

"The airbags activated, there was smoke in the car and she had to climb out of the passenger door as she couldn't get the driver's door open."

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When police arrived, Helal admitted he had been driving.

He had only passed his test around six months before the accident and was displaying green P plates, which are used by some new drivers.

Miss Haigh said: "He said he had been following his sat nav and it told him to turn onto this road. He produced a phone with a map on it.

"He said the reason he drove the wrong way down the motorway was because the sat nav told him to keep right.

"He turned right and found himself face to face with other cars.

"The prosecution say this was not a deliberate decision to drive the wrong way down the motorway.

"He ignored signage indicating vehicles should keep to the left.

"The prosecution accept it was a momentary mistake and error of judgement."

Helal, 37, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and was given a community order with a three month curfew between 7pm and 7am. He was also banned from driving for a year.

Judge Julie Clemitson told him: "No doubt, your decision to cross into the other lane was due to your inexperience and confusion.

"Your error created a high risk there would be a collision and that's what happened.

"The driver of the oncoming car suffered injuries that affected her work and sleep and affected her wedding day.

"It was lucky nobody was more seriously hurt."

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