A DRIVER who fell asleep at the wheel of a minibus which then overturned on the M40 has been jailed for seven months.

Fifteen passengers were on the bus when it overturned near Banbury on June 9, 2012, seriously injuring two.

Mark Nicholson, 35, was driving from Wigan, Lancashire, to an event at Portland Sailing Village, Weymouth, Dorset.

He set off at 11.15am and, after stopping in Birmingham, the collision happened at about 3.15pm between junctions 12 and 11.

The bus was in the middle lane and swerved into the outer lane – nearest the central reservation – and a passenger grabbed the steering wheel, said Robert Spencer-Bernard, prosecuting.

Nicholson attempted to bring the vehicle under control, he said, but it swerved back and forth and toppled over.

At Oxford Crown Court on Thursday Judge Patrick Eccles jailed Nicholson and banned him from driving for three years.

He said: “This was caused by a serious loss of concentration on your part where almost certainly you fell asleep.

“But for the intervention of a passenger the vehicle would almost certainly have collided with the central reservation and the consequences could have been just as serious or more so.

“The culpability is relatively high but not at the highest level. I am perfectly satisfied that this is so serious as to justify a sentence of imprisonment.”

Nicholson, of Abbey Hills Road, Oldham, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to driving without the appropriate licence and without insurance. The security guard wrongly believed his regular driving licence covered him to drive the bus, said Abdul Gofur, defending.

He said Nicholson was a man of previous good character with a clean licence and was “genuinely remorseful”.