A DRIVER was stranded on the side of the A23 after his car keys were hurled into a hedge during a road-rage incident.

The man was punched in the face during the confrontation between two drivers on the A23 at Pyecombe yesterday.

His keys were thrown into the undergrowth before the second driver left the scene.

One lane of the southbound carriageway was closed between 11.45am and 2.55pm as police officers and the driver searched in vain for the keys.

Despite using metal detectors they were unable to track them down and the Volkswagen had to be towed to the nearest garage at 3pm.

The incident caused hour long delays and four miles of traffic queues while police dealt with the incident.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Two male drivers stopped and were involved in an altercation. The cars did not collide.

“One of the drivers went to the other’s open window, punched him in the face, took his car keys, threw them on to the adjacent embankment and drove off.”

The man did not require any treatment after the incident.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: “It’s easy to get stressed and frustrated when driving, and this can sometimes boil into road rage and physical confrontations.

“This does no one any good, least of all the person losing their temper.

“If something happens during your journey, avoid over-reacting, resist any temptation to rebuke another driver and avoid eye contact with an aggressive or angry driver.

“Never get out of your car to confront an angry person.

“If upset by an incident, stop somewhere safe to calm down.”

Details of the other man and the car he drove off in have been circulated to all police units.