A lorry driver who drove the wrong way on a dual carriageway in Kent for 20km has been jailed.
Kryzstof Mazurkiewicz, 61, was said to have ignored repeated warnings from motorists as her travelled on the A21 between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge in the early hours on March 22 this year.
Maidstone Crown Court heard that he drove between 15 to 20km at 40mph, and at one point, manoeuvred his HGV and trailer around a lorry which had straddled two lanes in a bid to stop him.
No accidents were caused and no one was injured.
Judge Julian Smith gasped when he was told of the distance he had travelled and sentenced him to five and a half months in prison.
The court heard that police were contacted by several concerned drivers on the northbound carriageway at around 3am.
Prosecutor Lucy Luttman said: ‘One witness saw the defendant driving towards him and so flashed his lights to indicate for him to stop.
‘The defendant pulled up alongside him and the witness explained he was going the wrong way.
‘The defendant didn’t respond but in fairness to him, the witness said he thought it was probably because there was a language barrier.
‘The defendant pulled away and continued driving against the flow of traffic. Numerous other vehicles flashed the defendant trying to indicate for him to stop.’
She added that the risk to other road users was ‘substantial’ and aggravated by his disregard of those trying to alert him.
He was seen around 15 minutes later by another HGV driver, still driving the wrong way.
‘It seems word (about him) had gone around the lorry-driving community and the other HGV driver tried to block the defendant’s path,’ Miss Luttman said. He was concerned there would be a serious collision so he straddled the carriageway with his vehicle.
‘The defendant, however, didn’t stop and instead drove his vehicle around the lorry, up the central reservation area, and then carried on in the direction of the oncoming traffic.’
Mazurkiewicz was eventually stopped by police. When questioned, he told them he had been driving for five hours, but appeared to fall asleep in his cab while waiting for officers to close the road and assist him in turning his vehicle around.
The court heard that he initially drove towards the police vehicles blocking the carriageway, struck a kerb on the slip road, swerved and then collided with the rear of a patrol car as he pulled up.
He passed a roadside breath test and maintained that he was properly rested and had not fallen asleep in his cab as suspected.
The court heard that he had set off from Redditch in Worcestershire at 10pm and was headed to Dover.
He was unable to explain how or at which point he joined the A21 in the wrong direction.
‘As soon as he realised he started to think about how he could ‘get out of there’ but said there was nowhere for him to stop. He couldn’t find a lay-by in which he could stop and call police,’ Miss Luttman added.
‘He completely accepted it was dangerous and irresponsible, and said his driving was ‘like an inexperienced driver who had only just got their licence’.’
The court heard Mazurkiewicz had a clean DVLA record with no previous convictions in either the UK or his country of origin, Poland.
Speaking via a prison video link and through an interpreter, Mazurkiewicz told the court he has struggled to work out what happened that night.
‘I have been thinking about it ever since I ended up in prison and I cannot come up with a reason. If only I could turn back time. However, that’s impossible,’ he said.
‘Bearing in mind my years of experience driving HGVs, I honestly cannot understand how I came to be on the wrong side of the road and I cannot provide an answer.’
Judge Julian Smith said he gave him ‘the benefit of doubt’ that he had not driven while exhausted, but added that the fact there was no resulting accident or damage was down to the time of night and attentiveness of other motorists.
He was banned from driving for two years.
‘This was a persistent, bad mistake rather than you being so tired you couldn’t think,’ the judge told Mazurkiewicz.
‘You unfortunately let yourself down and put other road users at risk.’
Due to time spent in custody on remand, he is expected to be released in two weeks.