'The M4 saved my life!' - ITV Meridian's Sangeeta Bhabra recalls shocking childhood moment

Sangeeta Bhabra recalls the time the M4 saved her life when she was a child. Credit: Sangeeta Bhabra / PA
  • Blog by ITV Meridian's Sangeeta Bhabra

This is a story I've told on many occasions over the last 40 plus years. Always a great conversation starter and I promise it's completely true.

I’m sharing it today, because we were chatting about motorways in the newsroom earlier - as you know with the mega Easter getaway - the M20 to the M3 - all have been particularly lethargic.

When I was five I had the luckiest of escapes.

It was a warm, sunny Sunday morning, we had left our home in Berkshire early to travel to a family gathering in Southall, West London. I was wearing a white summer dress with little love hearts dotted around it, my mum dressed in her finest Indian clothing and my daddy pleased to be taking his brand new car to show the relatives.

My sister and I were safely positioned in the back- seat belts were not an industry standard back then- and we were on our way.

The sunshine and new in-car stereo brought out my dad's music collection so we all boogied our way along the junctions. Junction 7, 6, 5 … and then I must have fallen asleep because somehow when I woke I was lying in the middle lane of the M4.

The M4 in Berkshire

My parents’ Renault nowhere to be seen. The odd car travelling by. I calmly picked up my cardigan - it was lying by my side, then I recall walking to the hard shoulder and just waiting.

I don’t remember being panicked, even though I’d badly cut my knees, had grazed elbows and a bad graze on my forehead. I do remember the relief though, at my parents car pulling up and reclaiming me.

My mum often tells me how I was so calm - telling her not to cry.

Mum and dad felt terrible about what happened - my dad didn’t notice I’d fallen out. It was mum turning round after the car door slammed shut that led to the realisation the eldest had an early drop off. Thankfully the wonderful design of the M4 particularly as you near the Heathrow turn off, means you don’t have to travel for miles to go round again

A hospital visit followed- I needed stitches.

The guilty parents took me on a trip to my favourite fast food restaurant, and for weeks I became the centre of attention, as news of my James Bond stunt reached them.

There have been many theories about what happened. Had I unlocked the door accidentally while leaning against it? Was it shut properly when I set off? Was there a problem with the new car’s door? Why didn’t my sister notice?

It would have made a brilliant regional news story now I think of it. We laugh about it now because thankfully someone was looking out for me that day.

The most annoying thing though? Still travelling with a child lock in the back of my dad’s car till I was perhaps 20.

To this day it has to be one of my most vivid childhood memories. So that’s why the M4 saved my life!