It’s been reported across UK media recently that classic car owners are voting with their feet (and wheels) when it comes to the safety of smart motorway use.
The smart motorway safety saga has been ongoing for several years. In early 2022, the Government paused all new smart motorway development, so it could look further into the safety risks that have plagued them since their inception.
Prior to this, it was reported that motorway fatalities were demonstrably higher on smart motorway stretches than on motorway sections without all lane running and dynamic hard shoulder controls in place.
Now, the Express and other publications are reporting that classic car enthusiasts are choosing to take significant detours to avoid smart motorways altogether.
Lack of hard shoulder
80-year-old Alan Hames, who spent more than 50 years working as a highway engineer, takes detours of up to 26 miles in his 1972 E-Type Jaguar V12 Roadster to avoid a stretch of the M1 near his home that doesn’t have a hard shoulder. He chooses instead to use the M40 which has a full length of hard shoulder.
Gaynor Cauter, editor of Jaguar Driver magazine, is also reported as steering clear of smart motorways. She says she hears regularly from Jaguar owners who ‘make every effort to avoid them’.
A 2022 report found that smart motorways without a hard shoulder are three times more lethal to break down on, compared with smart motorways that have retained a safety lane. 10% of stopped vehicles on the motorway were not being spotted by Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) technology, according to National Highways data.
Ongoing safety concerns
In 2020, BBC’s Panorama told viewers that near misses on one stretch of the M25 had increased 20 times since it had been converted to smart motorway. A freedom of information act revealed there had been 38 deaths in 5 years on smart motorways. Not long after, the Government published a smart motorway Action Plan, intending to abolish dynamic hard shoulder use as well as tackle other safety concerns.
The Express article referred to a 2016 National Highways report on SVD that said the system had difficulty spotting some smaller vehicles, such as the Mazda MX5.
National Highways have since said that this should no longer be a problem, due to the development of radar-based technology. But not every driver is willing to take the risk, and trust in the safety of smart motorways remains low.
Do you avoid smart motorways?
We would like to hear your views on this subject – do you avoid smart motorways, or does it depend which car you’re driving? Have you ever broken down on a smart motorway? Feel free to message us below.