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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 August, 2004, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Should caravans go in the slow lane?
Caravans on the M5

Vehicles towing trailers and caravans on part of the M5 in south-west England will be asked to keep to the inside lane from Friday.

Southbound, Naish Hill is a difficult climb for motorists pulling a caravan and slow vehicles often cause tailbacks.

Towing drivers will be asked to comply with the regulations from 1600 to 2000 on Fridays and from 0800 to 1400 on Saturdays until August 28.

If it's a success the Highways Agency will run the scheme again at holiday weekends next year.

What do you think of these measures? Will they help to reduce congestion? Should caravans go in the slow lane?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

This topic was suggested by Chris Ashbey, UK:
Should caravans and all other vehicles towing trailers be confined to the inside lane of all motorways?

Caravans are a pest, they any thing else being towed should be taxed as a separate vehicle. Most spend 11 months of the year in a front garden. What an eyesore for the neighbours.
T Newman, UK

Of course they should be limited to the inside lane. Their manoeuvrability as well as their speed makes this the best option. Also Steve of Ascot, the speed limit on our motorways is 70mph, so anyone doing 68 mph isn't breaking the law, are you saying you do?
Elaine, Letchworth UK

Don't get me started! People towing Caravans, people in Volvo's, people wearing hats, people with red cars... People in red Volvo's, wearing hats and towing Caravans... Old drivers! Young drivers!! Mini-cab drivers!!! Don't even mention 4x4 drivers (some of whom wear hats and tow caravans)! Truck drivers? Don't talk to me about Truck drivers..... Ban them all!!!! Better go now, it's time for my medicine...
John, England

Some people obviously do not know the Highway code. "You should drive in the left-hand lane if the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower moving vehicles it may be safer to remain in the centre or outer lanes until the manoeuvre is completed rather than continually changing lanes. Return to the left-hand lane once you have overtaken all the vehicles or if you are delaying traffic behind you. Slow moving or speed restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking." Caravans do not cause problems it is the idiot speeders who are always changing lanes and causing accidents.
Richard, Hampshire UK

It's distressing to read the nasty comments about caravaners, most of whom are considerate drivers of well balanced, properly powered outfits. Most are families driving to and from their annual holiday and they most probably do this trip once a year. They are not road hogs cruising the highways with the express purpose of upsetting other motorway users.
Msmo, London UK

Don't be so hard on the poor caravaners; there's plenty of room for them on the motorways and we should be happy to share it with them. It's the single carriageway A roads and B roads they should be banned from using.
P Burns, Fleet, Hants

I would also like to see BMW's banned from all roads on the grounds that their owners are, in the main, brain dead
Tim, Herne Bay
A much better solution would be to adopt the American system of allowing overtaking on the left and right. It would not then matter which lane people were in would it! I would also like to see BMW's banned from all roads on the grounds that their owners are, in the main, brain dead. I suspect this will not happen because it would discriminate against those less fortunate people who cannot figure out what an indicator is for or how to use it!
Tim, Herne Bay

This doesn't go far enough. They should be made to drive only in the hours between midnight and 5am and then only in the slow lane!
Dean, Telford, YK

In Los Angeles, anyone with a trailer must stay in the right two (slower) lanes almost at all times. Considering traffic in my fair city, I can only say: Good Luck!
Daniel, Los Angeles, CA

I wonder why people do not know how to drive properly anymore. Fast lanes, slow lanes - there are no such things!
Peter, London, UK

It is slow drivers without caravans that are the problem
John Downie, Hamilton
Caravans should use two lanes as now. How about drivers over 70 with or without a caravan using the slow lane, how would they feel about this? It is slow drivers without caravans that are the problem.
John Downie, Hamilton

As usual the government has missed the whole point and chosen the most populist approach rather than the best. Re-education of motorway driving is the answer, so that drivers learn that outer lanes are for overtaking and not cruising at 68mph.
Steve, Ascot

How about banning lorries from overtaking too?
Tony Windsor, Shrewsbury, England

Yes - and drivers wearing hats as well...
John Rogers, Bristol, England

If the publicity generated by this trial gets people to think about the causes of congestion (slow vehicles overtaking slower vehicles, lane hogs, drivers cutting up other drivers, etc.) it's a very, very, very good thing!
Jeremy, Steeple Aston, UK

It will only serve to add to congestion
Martyn Field, Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Most caravan outfits these days travel comfortably at 60mph, surely if they are forced to stay in the nearside line behind slower vehicles it will only serve add to congestion and frustrations. The decision on whether to overtake should be left with the driver and whether he can do it in a reasonable time.
Martyn Field, Stratford-upon-Avon, England

I am travelling to Cornwall and will have to use the M5 for 35 miles. I have a large caravan and a large powerful 4 x 4 to tow it. I will certainly not be holding up any traffic, but will be probably stuck behind an articulated lorry, without the opportunity to overtake due to this ridiculous rule. Not all caravaners are senile pensioners towing a 20 ton caravan with a 1970's Allegro.

Please leave us alone, after all we are ploughing money into the British tourist industry and not copping out with a Bulgarian cheapo package deal. Caravanning is cool, you just haven't realised it yet.
Philip Piggott, Salisbury Wiltshire

Very often, the slow moving caravan in the middle lane is held up by a slower moving HGV (limited to 56mph) that cannot go any faster than the traffic in the left-hand lane. This restriction should apply to any vehicle which is incapable of reaching, say 60mph.
John Rundle, Northampton, Northants.

This is a very good idea; it slows down caravans that travel too fast; it keeps the middle lane available for those who can overtake more quickly. In Germany, this idea also extends to lories for short, uphill sections of Autobahn, where lorries otherwise would block the faster traffic.
Andrew, Stonehouse, Glos

Why are they picking on the caravans?
Bill McIntosh, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
Why are they picking on the caravans? I pull a large caravan with a large 4X4 which can easily overtake with no problems. So what happens now all the caravans on the inside lane all the HGVs on the middle lane and everyone else in the so called fast lane. It will be even more chaos.
Bill McIntosh, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Most comments made on caravaners are derisory ones when it comes to traffic congestions and hold-ups at busy times. They seem to take the blame for the short comings of this government inadequate attempts at easing Britain's growing traffic problems. Also what about some of the lunatic car drivers that are on the roads these days you only have to witness them on motorways chopping and changing lanes speeding, all this causes problems for all other users.
Mick Jackson, Derby

Personally I always try to travel with my caravan very early in the morning, that way I don't have to put up with the excellent and considerate drivers who have made their feelings (and attitude) known on this page. But in all seriousness don't forget this advisory restriction covers ALL towing vehicles including the slowest of the lot, Horse Boxes.
Rob, Wiltshire

Caravans are for people who are too cheap to use hotels and not butch enough to camp. They contribute nothing except congestion and visual pollution. Their owners should be stripped of these mobile skips and sent for mandatory re-education.
Rhymer, London, UK

Surely you should not be talking about the 'slow' lane. This is incorrect! Is the outside lane the fast lane?! I always thought that the correct description was Inner, Middle and Outer.
Mcfarlane, Stratford upon Avon

Given this is a voluntary initiative, it will be interesting to see how many people comply. Different people tow at differing speeds through choice: those who can tow at the legal limit should not be penalised by those who wish to tow at less than 60mph. Also, time embargos would have differing impacts - forcing people to drive at night, when they are likely to be tired, brings different issues.
Rob, Bristol

Yes it would help if caravans were kept to the left driving lane except when overtaking. But why do reporters insist on referring to the normal driving position as the slow lane?
Andrew Hopes, Dundee Scotland

Lorries cause many more delays
Nik Dennis, Sutton on Sea England
Lorries cause many more delays than do anything else on the roads, they're limited to 56mph but insist on overtaking each other blocking not one but two lanes for several miles. Remember caravans can and do travel at 60 not 56, so why not do what the Swiss do, and ban lorries at the weekend. Then you'll see an improvement.
Nik Dennis, Sutton on Sea England

Ban them from the road totally except between 2am and 4am in the morning. You have to be sad to want to holiday in one let alone inflict it on other people as you try move the thing.
Simon, Whitchurch, Hampshire, England

These measures are potentially dangerous and may cause longer delays. A well matched and well driven car and caravan is perfectly capable of maintaining the maximum towing speed of 60mph when travelling uphill.
Sue Clay, Leicester, England

Motorways are designed to allow for fast movement of traffic. Lorries and caravans overtaking make the system pointless. In Belgium road signs at the bottom of hills forbid all towing and large vehicles from overtaking on hills. This should be introduced in this country.
Alex Moon, Reading, UK

The government should spend a bigger proportion of the money they take from motorists to improve known congestion points if they won't upgrade the road system as a whole. They seem very keen to use any other country's ideas on transport except the upgrading option. Instead of trying to regulate and constrict the transport network they should be looking at ways to speed up traffic.
Peter Scott, Stockton-on-Tees, UK

If the authorities are this bothered about delays on this stretch of road, why did they put a temporary speed camera on a footbridge causing an hour's delay in each direction on the first Saturday of the school holidays? And why did they use the electronic signage to implement a reduced speed limit from twenty miles ahead of the tailback they caused? It's too easy and inaccurate to blame caravanners.
Calum Robertson, Birmingham, UK

A friend of mine calls it "mobile traffic calming" when he's travelling with the caravan attached. I must say I agree with him..
Martin Hepworth, Oxford, UK

Whoever is responsible for this scheme obviously hasn't travelled on this motorway
Mike, Hull, East Yorkshire
Having used this particular part of the M5 many times and as recently as last week it is my opinion that caravans are not as much to blame as lorries. They try to overtake other lorries and can remain two abreast for miles. Whoever is responsible for this scheme obviously hasn't travelled on this motorway.
Mike, Hull, East Yorkshire

It's about time the inside lane was made to give minimum speeds of 55 mph, and stop private cars using the motorway if the driver cannot keep to that minimum speed, so stopping lorry drivers, caravan towers etc, from pulling out to overtake them, causing problems.
William Parker, Clowne, Derbyshire, England

About time too! But wouldn't it be better to simply ban caravans from the roads completely? If this seems too harsh, just restrict their movements between 10pm and 6am¿¿
Gideon, Stockbridge, Hants

The increase in general traffic is because the schools are off and there is the industrial two weeks holiday to take into account as well. As a person who does tow, one of the problems is related to lorries who are governed to 56mph and when laden on the hills, struggle and we are forced to overtake or drop to below 50mph. Last weekend travelling north on the M5, we encountered a slow moving car doing only 50mph. Are we supposed to sit behind him for the journey? No way. We have a caravan for our holidays in the UK, not everybody can afford to go abroad for the summer holiday in the school holidays.
Martin, Birmingham, England

Many underestimate the skills needs to tow a heavy trailer, a separate training course and driving test should be required before a driver is allowed to tow on public roads.
Andrew, Herts, UK

I cannot say that caravaners behave any worse there than they do anywhere else on the road network
Ian, Matlock, England
I have driven on that part of the M5 at all times of the year and I cannot say that caravaners behave any worse there than they do anywhere else on the road network. This may seem like a generalisation but it seems to me that there are three sorts of caravaner: Those who have a car that is simply not powerful enough to tow their caravan who create a hold-up wherever and whenever they go; those with a car that is plenty powerful enough and insist on showing everyone else that this is the case (and can be seen driving at breakneck speed with the caravan swinging wildly behind); and those who have an appropriate car to tow with and get on with driving sensibly and considerately. Sadly this latter category is in the minority.
Ian, Matlock, England

In theory a step in the right direction - in practice a poorly devised solution. Firstly, throughout the year motorways get severely bunched (dangerously so) by artics overtaking on hills, secondly some people insist on driving at 40 or 50 mph in the inside lane. So to force only caravans to stay behind slow drivers whilst the big lorries are clogging the other lanes does not seem sensible or well thought out. Do nothing or restrict all heavier/slower vehicles to the inside lanes when going up hills.
Andy, London

There is no such thing as a slow lane. The inside lane should be used by all vehicles unless overtaking. References to slow and fast lanes discourage drivers from moving to the inside lane. Lane discipline is much better on the German autobahns.
Lou, Leeds, Yorks

Excellent idea, perhaps it should be extended to other areas as well. It would also be a good idea for trucks/lorries using the M3 in Hampshire through the Twyford Gap!
Ann, Eastleigh, Hampshire

What a great idea - why hasn't some-one implemented this simple idea before? And why stop at caravans - how about including "all" vehicles that are towing, which then includes trucks (with tractor/trailers) and coaches (with luggage trailers). In fact, why not make this the rule on any hill on a motorway?
Timbo, Medway, UK

Being a regular user of this section of motorway is a nightmare during the summer months. My daily journey after finishing work is roughly an hour but changes to up to two and a half hours on a Friday. The introduction of this trial is only covering the cracks in a faulty transportation plan which has not foreseen the increase in traffic volume.
P. McHaddan, Weston Super Mare, Somerset

As a regular user of this road this can only be a step in the right direction. However, in true Highway Agency style it is only a half measure. The only real solution would be to embargo caravans during peak periods completely.
Dan, Cotswolds, UK

Allow caravans to travel at the same speed as other vehicles
John Wittman, Thaxted, England
It should be remembered that towed caravans in the UK are restricted to 60mph on motorways, unlike France where the speed limit, in normal conditions, is the same as solo cars. This artificial restriction in itself causes bunching. Allow caravans to travel at the same speed as other vehicles and bunching will lessen.
John Wittman, Thaxted, England

My husband and I tow a caravan and in principle do not have a problem with the idea. However, we frequently find whilst towing our caravan that there are people in the 'inside' lane toddling about at 40mph who hold others up and there is no option but to overtake. Technically all drivers should use the 'inside' lane as legally there is no such thing as a slow lane and a fast lane.
Jo Hodgson, Swindon, UK

Caravans! If I see another caravan I'll burst. With a few gracious exceptions, they are a nuisance to other road users, driven with little consideration to the queues and frustration they cause. This and the blight of overtaking lorries on dual carriageways is surely enough to warrant some sort of legislation. I fully support the Naish Hill trial. Congestion costs money, and frustration leads to accidents.
Michael Wells, UK

This stretch of motorway is often clogged up by caravans, causing significant delays every bank holiday weekend and at the start of school holidays. However, the main problem is getting the "middle lane drivers" to get out of their comfort zone!
Sam, Bristol, England

Plan puts caravans in 'slow' lane
30 Jul 04  |  Bristol/Somerset

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