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separate land or at least to the sides, the main part of the roadway will be left free for the exclusive use of motor vehicles.

Then will arise the real traffic problem of modern times, that of ensuring the swift, smooth and safe flow of automobiles on city roads. This is a highly technical task, requiring scientific study and application. The Madras Traffic Police in conjunction with the Traffic Development Committee are competently handling this job. Evidence of this could be seen in the improvements effected to Mount Road and other areas in recent years.

All these improvements are to make the roadway clear for the automobile, which, if not today, at least in the years ahead will resign supreme on the roads. So the automobiles, cars, lorries, buses, scooters and motor cycles, more than others, must strictly conform to road discipline.

Owner-driven cars generally give no cause for complaint. But unfortunately this cannot be said of buses, taxis, lorries and cars driven by paid drivers where irresponsibility, rather than their incompetence, makes them traffic hazards.

For, after all the eloquent arguments we can adduce against the pedestrian, the cyclist and the cartman, we have to admit that it is not these, but the automobile that is responsible for most of the accidents on our city roads.

Last year, out of 3,488 traffic accidents in Madras City, motor vehicles were responsible for no less than 2,219. Let the motorist think twice before he points an accusing finger at the pedestrian. Negligent Driving

Danger may be said to be inherent in a fast-moving vehicle. As motor traffic increases, so does the toll of road accidents. But is this congestion a factor, or the sole cause of accidents P Let us look at last year's statistics again. The 2,219 accidents caused by automobiles were made up as follows: , 895, were due to high speeding and careless driving (surely not a necessary corollary to traffic congestion), 467 to overtaking, 368 to close following, 97 to defec

tive mechanism, 97 to wrong side driving, 81 to emerging from sidestreets (without pausing, obviously), 80 to swerving, 48 to bad reversing and 18 to disobeying singnals; other causes 69.

Motor vehicle drivers in Madras must then be cautious in their use of their potentially dangerous vehicle. They can be assured of speed only if they in turn can assure safety to others on the road.

Rash and negligent driving is rare among owner-drivers, but there is a general impression among the public that taxi-drivers and bus-drivers are the worst offenders in this respect.

Buses, including State Transport vehicles, speeding up even where the nex thalt is a short distance away, and abruptly stopping yards away from the kerb, are a feature which people complain of as common in the city.

The Director of the State Transport Department, Mr. T. N. Seshan, was of the view that such instances of rashness or negligence were rare, and in any case, departmental action was taken when they were brought to notice.

About bus drivers starting the vehicles even as passengers were alighting or getting into buses, the State Transport Ministers Mr. R. Venkataraman, said he wouid take a serious view of any such negligence.

Taxis have become less of a menace then before due to deterrent punishment awarded for rash and negligent driving. But the problem has not been eliminated. As a taxidriver of over twenty years’ standing told me, taxis will tend to overspeed as long as the owners fix the drivers' cut as a percentage of their daily collections. Owner-driven taxis as in Bombay, or “public taxis” as proposed by the Commissioner of Police some time back, might be an answer to this.

One bad habit of city taxis, cruising right in the centre of the road in search of fares and stopping abruptly on getting one, must be put an end to. This is disconcerting to the traffic coming behind. One can see plenty of such instances on Mount Road between the Round Tana and Wellington.

(Continued on page 99 )

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Fire F Ighting

Outbreaks of serious and medium fires, as classified by the Delhi fire brigade, have doubled. Figures for the years 1961-62 and 1962-63 show that while calls on the fire brigade have remained more or less constant1,065 in 1961-62 and 1,165 in 1962-63—the number of medium or serious calls has jumped from 10 in 1961-62 to 22 in the following year.

Smouldering cigarette or bidi butts, sparks from cooking fires, mechanical friction and short-circuiting of electric wires, caused all but two or three of these fires. In 1961-62 half of the 10 medium or serious fires broke out in the quarter April-June, while in the following year 13 of 22 such fires occurred in this quarter.

Fires, seldom if ever, are initially of serious proportions. They assume these proportions because they spread before they can be controlled. The sharp increase in the number of serious and medium fires indicates that measures to control the blaze till fire fighters come on the scene are lacking.

Despite the increase, the clear seasonal trend, and the causes of fires, the authorities are content to rely on the civic sense and social consciousness of the people to prevent fire damage. The only positive measures that are considered possible are more fire brigade stations near danger spots and water storage tanks in these areas.

Timber Yards

Timber, khas, bamboos, furniture and tires are stacked high without gaps or alleys to act as fire-breakers. When fire breaks out it is difficult to control it because of the stacking which impedes fire fighters from getting to the source of the fire. Inflammable materials such as oils and varnishes, spirits and alcohol, chemicals and other items enumerated in the hazardous substances list are not only stored in basements and godowns, in residential areas, but in people's homes.

Saw mills are often operated in timber yards. Electric poles are adjacent to highly

Delhi Has More Serious Fires

combustible stocks piled unauthorizedly on rooftops under power mains. Cooking fires are lit close to premises displaying newlypainted furniture. I failed to see a single signboard banning smoking when I visited highly inflammable areas in Paharaganj, Teliwara, Motia Khan and Sadar Bazar. And it was dry as tinder. A spark or an ember would have been enough to set it ablaze.

Appeal To Civic Sense

Obviously exhortations to public conscience and civic sense, annual fire-fighting week observances and homilies on the crass ignorence and self-centredness of the people are not enough. Tendering advice to people on preventing fire hazards is not going to stop the outbreak of danaging fire and holding inquiries into their cause after the flames have been extinguished is as useless as locking the stable after the horse has bolted.

Since the existing system of issuing licences for storing and keeping hazardous material has failed, many people feel that this function should now be handed over to the fire brigade. It is only right and logical, they argue, that those who fight fires should be empowered to see that measures are taken to prevent their outbreak, and that if they do break out, the damage they cause is limited. Powers should include authority to issue or withhold licences after due inspection, to implement preventive measures and to take action against those violating these measures Door-to-door checking and surveil

lance are also necessary. It is not enough for the fire brigade to confine itself to fighting fires when they break out.

Legislation should be enacted conferring those powers on the Delhi fire brigade as is the case in some other States, West Bengal, for example. Until such legislation is passed, interim powers could be granted to the brigade.

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