Driver wakes up at wheel near Northampton to find he'd rammed another car off the M1
A man coming fell asleep at the wheel near Northampton and forced another car off the road, a court heard.
And when he woke up and did not know why his airbag had deployed, he lied to the police about his part in the incident.
Matthew Kirwan, 28, was convicted on one count of dangerous driving and one count of perverting the course of justice at Northampton Crown Court yesterday (March 28).
Kirwan was driving home to Wigan from a stag do in London on July 24 last year.
Andrew Howarth, prosecuting, said: "He had been out the night before with a client from work. He had drunk a glass of champagne and four Jack Daniels over the course of the night.
"He wanted to get home to a party his wife was having in Wigan and set off in the early morning. He had had no sleep and was driving a company car, a Ford Ranger SUV."
Kirwan was driving in the middle lane on the M1 between J14 and J15 at around 7.10am. In the first lane was an Audi containing four passengers and a dog. Both were driving at around 70mph.
A witness saw the SUV drift over and into the Audi, forcing it off the road and into an embankment, where it came to a stop.
The witness pulled over the help, when he realised the SUV had driven off. When he continued his journey later, he saw the SUV and its driver on the hard shoulder further up the road.
He reported this to the police. When they arrived at the SUV, the driver could not be found.
Police searched the vehicle and found it belonged to a company in Manchester and linked it to Mr Kirwan.
Mr Howarth said: "Mr Kirwan believes he had fallen asleep at the wheel. When he woke up to find his airbag had deployed and saw no other cars around, he thought he had hit the barrier.
"He pulled over onto the hard shoulder and saw he had lost a wheel and had caused considerable damage to the car. He thought his boss would fire him.
"In a moment of pure panic, he called the police to say his car had been stolen in London.
"He then called his wife and hid in a bush until she arrived. He told her he was worried he would lose his job. But having heard the news, she told him it was now a matter of losing more than his job."
When Mr Kirwan learned what had happened to the other car, he went straight to a Wigan police station. He confessed his part in the incident and that he had given false information to the police.
No one in the Audi was seriously hurt in the crash.
His Honour Judge Timothy Smith said in sentencing: "You were 27-years-old with eight years of stable employment and a stable relationship. Your friends and colleagues have spoken highly of your work ethic and have said that you are a reliable person.
"You made some poor decisions on the morning of this incident that could have had serious or even fatal consequences for the passengers of the other car.
"In this moment of panic, however, you lied to the police, which strikes at the very heart of the justice system."
Kirwan was given a sentence of 10 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months. He has also been banned from driving for 12 months and will complete 200 hours of unpaid work.