Car sales manager Paul Kightly thought he was doing the responsible thing when he pulled off the M3 to have a rest after nearly falling asleep at the wheel.

But he was shocked two weeks later when his employers at Chippenham Vauxhall received a letter saying his company car had overstayed the two-hour limit at Fleet Services and he had to pay a fine of £100.

Mr Kightly, 29, of Rowden Hill, Chippenham, said: “I thought I was doing the sensible thing. Just before I left the motorway I nearly had an accident and if it had not been for a lorry sounding its horn it could have been serious.

"I went for a cup of coffee and got back into the car and fell asleep. I must have been even more tired than I thought as I slept for about two hours.

“I didn’t think any more about it until my employers got the letter about my company car. The letter said there were warning notices about the time limit but I didn’t see them.

“It seems like a crazy and dangerous rule to me.”

Mr Kightly appealed to Parking Eye, the private company enforcing the notice, but this was turned down.

He also contacted Welcome Break, which runs the service area, and pointed out he had spent money in the café and the car park was almost empty but they too were unsympathetic. He has gone to the Parking On Private Land Appeals but is not confident of getting a positive result.

A spokesman for Parking Eye said the signs were clearly placed, warning drivers that if they stayed for longer than two hours they needed to call the company to buy a ticket or buy one from inside the service area.

A spokesman for the AA said: “We don’t really have a problem with this rule. Two hours is a long time even if you go in the café first. If you need to sleep for more than an hour or so, think about stopping somewhere else.”