Classic car driver takes huge detours to avoid smart motorways

Smart motorways are a 'broken system' says Madeley in January

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A classic car owner takes detours of up to 26 miles to avoid smart motorways.

Alan Humes, 80, doesn’t want to be hit from behind while stopped in live lanes and so uses motorways with hard shoulders – even if it adds significant time onto his journeys. 

I know many other classic car owners who take long detours to avoid these deadly smart motorway death traps.

Alan Humes, classic car owner

The pensioner puts 26 miles on round trips from his home in Northamptonshire to London, for instance, because he uses the M40 rather than the M1 because the latter doesn’t have a hard shoulder along his stretch.

Alan, who worked as a highways engineer for more than 50 years before retiring, drives a 1972 E-Type Jaguar V12 Roadster.

He said: “I know many other classic car owners who take long detours to avoid these deadly smart motorway death traps. Our classics are well looked after but cars like mine built 50 years ago are not as reliable as modern motors.

“At least a hard shoulder gives drivers the option of getting to relative safety.”

Edmund King, AA president, said the Government and National Highways should “go back to the drawing board” and return the hard shoulder.

But around 10 per cent of England’s motorway network is made up of smart motorways. They involve various methods to manage the flow of traffic, such as converting the hard shoulder into a live running lane and variable speed limits.

Gaynor Cauter, editor of Jaguar Driver magazine, said she is one of many car enthusiasts who try to steer clear of smart motorways.

“I hear regularly from drivers of Jaguars – classic and modern – who are so frightened of breaking down on smart motorways that they make every effort to avoid them, and I include myself in that number,” she said.

“However, on some journeys, they are almost impossible to avoid.”

A National Highways report into SVD (stopped vehicle detection) trials published in 2016 stated that there were difficulties detecting small cars such as the Mazda MX5 sports coupe, which has a height of only 1.2 metres.

But the company is confident the development of radar-based technology means there is no longer a specific problem related to the size of vehicles.

Classic car owner Alice Kimberley, 61 and from Wiltshire, said: “I have been driving my classic MX5 fearlessly for 30 years but now am concerned about venturing out on the new M4 smart motorway with the added danger of perhaps going under the radar or having nowhere to go if I did happen to break down.

“I try to avoid smart motorways if I can.”

National Highways operational control director Andrew Page-Dove said: “Stopped vehicle detection is required to detect all types of vehicles that use our motorways.

“We have met our commitment to putting it in place on existing all-lane running motorways and work is now underway to further improve the system to make journeys on our busiest roads even safer and more reliable.”

In January, the Department for Transport halted the development of new smart motorways without a hard shoulder until five years of safety data has been collected for schemes introduced before 2020.

Multiple surveys have indicated that many drivers do not use the inside lane on smart motorways as they are worried there might be a broken-down vehicle ahead.

Mr King said: “Prime Minister Rishi Sunak described smart motorways as ‘unsafe’. It really is time for National Highways and transport ministers to go back to the drawing board.

“The rollout of new smart motorways has been halted but urgent action is needed on the current confusion. Reinstating the hard shoulder and enforcing better lane discipline might just do the trick.”

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