A 73-year-old taxi driver caused a two car pile-up after she drove the wrong way onto a dual carriageway in South Devon.

Louise Keay was confused by an unfamiliar road layout as she joined the A380 Expressway near Kingskerswell and headed North towards Newton Abbot on the Southbound carriageway.

She panicked when she realised her mistake and tried to drive onto the verge next to the central reservation but had a near miss with another taxi which was carrying three passengers in the opposite direction.

The taxi had to veer off to avoid a head-on collision and crashed into a third car which was damaged as it was hit, causing minor whiplash injuries to that driver’s neck.

Keay, who has a clean driving record dating back to when she passed her test in 1969, had a part time job as a taxi driver and only earned £50 to £70 a week by taking elderly people to hospital appointments.

She is a grandmother who suffers from arthritis and will struggle to get around after she was banned from driving for a year.

Keay, of Marldon, near Paignton, admitted dangerous driving and was fined £250 with £340 costs by Judge Anna Richardson at Exeter Crown Court, where she was also disqualified for 12 months and ordered to take an extended retest.

She told her: 'You travelled down a road which was clearly marked with a No Entry sign onto the A380 dual carriageway when you should have been travelling in the opposite direction.

'You panicked and instead of pulling over and stopping, you pulled onto the central reservation as far as you could and continued to drive.'

Mr Herc Ashworth, prosecuting, said the accident on the dual carriageway happened shortly after Keay’ Skoda Octavia taxi joined it in the wrong direction at 7.03 pm on March 11 this year.

A Kia taxi containing a driver and three passengers saw Keay approaching them and took evasive action which led to the car hitting a Vauxhall Corsa. Both vehicles were damaged but the only injury was to the Corsa driver’s neck, but no treatment other than Ibuprofen was needed.

Keay told police she panicked when she joined the road from Riviera Way and realised she was in the wrong carriageway but thought it was safer to carry on than to stop.

Mr Ashworth said: 'This was obviously a highly dangerous manoeuvre but clearly was a genuine, if very bad, mistake.'

Mr Paul Dentith, defending, said the inevitable driving ban will be the greatest punishment because Keay suffers from arthritis and lives in a hilly and isolated area where it will be difficult to get to shops and services.

She will not be able to carry on her work in which she helped other people by taking them shopping or to hospital.