Classic car owners are putting the smart motorway on the backburner

Owners of classic cars are smartly avoiding motorways and taking long detours for fear of getting hit if they break into the live lanes.

Drivers of cars built more than 25 years ago said motorways without hard shoulders are at “too high a risk” because the age of their vehicles makes them more susceptible to mechanical failure. Instead, they resort to longer journeys to bypass the roads, which account for 10 per cent of the motorway network.

AA president Edmund King said the government should “go back to the drawing board” and bring back rigid shoulders.

Alan Haymes, 80, who was a highway engineer for 50 years before his retirement, said he takes detours to avoid the Smart Motorway while driving his Jaguar E-Type V12 roadster he built in 1972. These include a distance of 26 miles in the return journey from his home. Northamptonshire for a recent rare-car incident via the M40 in London, which has a hard shoulder instead of the M1, which doesn’t.

“I know many other classic car owners who drive the long way to avoid these smart motorway death traps,” he said.

“Our classics are well taken care of but cars like mine are not as reliable as modern motors. At least the rigid shoulder gives drivers the option of achieving relative safety. I attribute this new, dangerous situation to ‘my’ rigid as stealing the shoulder protection that I helped design and manufacture in 1962.

Smart motorways use various methods to manage the flow of traffic, such as converting hard shoulders into live running lanes and issuing variable speed limits.

Jaguar Driver magazine editor Gaynor Cotter said: “I regularly hear from drivers who are so afraid of breaking down on smart motorways that they do everything possible to avoid them. I include myself in that number.

“However, on some trips, it is nearly impossible to avoid them.”

Alice Kimberley, 61, from Wiltshire, said: “I’ve been fearlessly driving my classic Mazda MX5 for 30 years, but now I worry about getting out on the M4. I’d rather avoid the Smart Motorway if I can I try.”

In January the Department for Transport halted development of motorways without hard-shoulders until five years of safety data had been collected for plans introduced before 2020.

King said: “The rollout of the new Smart Motorway has been paused but urgent action is needed on the existing confusion. Restoring the hard shoulder and implementing better lane discipline may do the trick.

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