Today sees the start of a new phase of repairs on Spaghetti Junction. Tom Scotney spent the day with the Highways Agency, the guardians and managers of the roads.
On the hard shoulder, your life expectancy is just 10 minutes.
It's the emergency lane, but it's not a safe place to be. So there's a team of specialists watching the motorways to come to the rescue if you get stranded there.
And those specialists, traffic officers of the Highways Agency, have to deal with the extreme behaviour of some of the Midlands' maddest motorists.
"Last Saturday we had a call saying someone had been driving the wrong way down the motorway, a 78-year old woman who was driving southbound on the northbound side of the road," said traffic officer Sean Bakewell.
"We parked in front of her and I got out of the car but she just shot past me at 60 miles an hour. It was a near miss.
"When we finally stopped her she said 'I don't know what I did wrong, everyone was so nice for me, moving out of the way and flashing their lights'."
Sean and Justin Phipps are two of the 150 or so traffic officers whose job is to be the first to accidents on the West Midlands motorway network. They have been on the scene at some of the most grisly accidents on the region's roads.
Sean was the first person to arrive after biker Gerard Tobin was shot dead on the M40 last August.
"Because it was a crime scene we had to make it a sterile environment, with families and hundreds of people there," says Sean. "We did so much work that day." Luckily, there's nothing so horrific when the duo take us out on patrol - a driver caught using his mobile phone illegally and a few breakdowns including one woman stuck on a roundabout on her 21st birthday.
While Sean and Justin patrol the motorways, Highways Agency officers back at the Birmingham-based control room, in Quinton, monitor the network on a video screen that takes up a whole wall of the spacious office.
Footage on the NASA Mission Control-style wall flicks between the 631 cameras covering nearly every inch of the motorway network.
If an accident happens, the patrolling officers can be told straight away to get to the scene.
The start of the summer has brought out one particularly regular menace to the roads in the West Midlands - the trusty caravan.
Everyone at the centre seems to have a particular attitude towards the caravan, notorious for its ability to flip, crash, collapse or otherwise destroy itself, usually at high speeds.
The other bane of the operators' lives is high winds, which can flip over an HGV with ease.
Wind speed recorders are constantly running in the corner of the big screen to avoid a repeat of "windy Thursday", a dark day for truckers in the Midlands a few years ago, when 48 lorries were blown over on one day.
The nerve centre is the main Highways Agency office, overlooking Broad Street in the city centre, where the future of the region's motorways is decided.
Currently top of the agenda is the rollout of Active Traffic Management, which will see drivers using the hard shoulder on motorways all around Birmingham, to reduce congestion at peak times.
On the wall in the office of regional director Tim Harbot is a blown-up aerial picture of Spaghetti Junction.
The famous interchange is going under one of the biggest refurbishments since it was opened 36 years ago, as salt eats away at the steel girders supporting the structure.
And everyone at the Highways Agency is trying to make sure the network carries on running smoothly for the next 35 years, and beyond.
* Spaghetti Junction factfile
* A total of 15 years was spent on the planning, design and construction of the Gravelly Hill Interchange aka Spaghetti Junction
* 13,000 tonnes of steel and 175,000 cubic yards of concrete went into the landmark
* At the peak of construction, more than 300 tonnes of concrete were mixed every hour
* The junction has 18 roads, supported by 559 concrete columns, the tallest of which is the height of more than five double-decker buses
* Half a mile of the River Tame had to be diverted to Gravelly Hill to make the junction possible
* A 'save the fish' campaign helped protect 250,000 fish which had to be temporarily moved from Salford Pool during construction
* During its first year in operation, an average of 40,000 vehicles a day went over Spaghetti Junction. Today, the figure is more than four times that number
* Since it was opened, an estimated total of 1.55 billion vehicles have used Spaghetti Junction.