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passers or those using grade crossings were fifty-eight killed and four hundred and sixty injured. The greater number of these were grade crossing accidents and were due to motor vehicles colliding with railway trains.
The Commission has placed every restriction around railroad crossings that is possible, and without question a great many of the accidents are due more to a lack of care on the part of drivers of motor vehicles than to those operating the trains. Some method should be devised whereby drivers of motor vehicles would be compelled for their own protection to stop, look and listen before they approach and use grade crossings over any railroad track in South Carolina, regardless of their knowledge of the schedule of trans due to pass over such crossing. Extra trains are as dangerous as regular trains, and the public should realize that it is absolutely necessary to operate other than regularly scheduled trains, and to depend upon schedules being maintained at all times is without question dangerous. Many conditions occur that prevent trains from operating on schedule time and there can be no guaranty as to what time trains will pass grade crossings. Therefore it is for the protection of all parties using vehicles of all kinds that they should lose just a few seconds' time by stopping their vehicles at least twenty-five feet from any grade crossing before passing over same. Regardless of how much the engine bell is sounded or whistle blown, it is next to impossible to hear same while the average motor car is laboring under a load. The drivers of such vehicles should most assuredly keep this in mind at all times, as in doing this they will help protect themselves as well as others. The Commission is anxious to co-operate with your honorable body in any proposition that will tend to reduce the death and injury rate at grade crossings in South Carolina.
TRESPASSING UPON RAILROAD RIGHT-OF-WAY.
Quite a number of those previously referred to as injured come under this class, and among them some who were using right-ofway of the railroad without any apparent purpose. This is a serious problem and one which the Commission has not so far been able to devise a plan to prevent in South Carolina. That some method should be promulgated to prevent the public from using the railroad track as a walkway, and from crossing same at points other than that designated, seems to be necessary in order to protect those who apparently will not protect themselves. At this time the Commission is not in position to suggest what method would be best. However, the Railroad Commission will heartily co-operate in any effort on the part of your honorable body to bring about results or regulations that would at least have a tendency to prevent the use of railway tracks for the purpose above referred to, and in many instances resulting in the death or injury of the person so trespassing.
In some instances complaint has been made to the Commission that school children use the railroad tracks as a walkway from their homes to the schools and vice versa. This is an exceedingly dangerous proposition and should not be allowed anywhere or at any time.
No additional electric railways have been constructed in South Carolina since our last report to your honorable body. The Isle of Palms Traction Company case is still in the Federal Court. The Commission, at the request of the patrons of that line, reviewed and revised rates and promulgated rules for its operation to such an extent that we trust will enable this road to continue to perform the functions of a public carrier.
The Charleston Consolidated Railway & Lighting Co. has completed its double track at Magnolia crossing at Charleston, S. C. This was a short distance to complete the entire double track from Charleston to the Navy Yard.
Few complaints are being received at present in regard to the service rendered by electrically operated railroads in South Carolina.
TELEGRAPH COMPANIES. Only two companies furnish telegraph service in South Carolina—the Western Union Telegraph Company and the Postal Telegraph-Cable Company. Since their return by the Federal Government these companies have continued to improve their lines, in many instances adding additional circuits and equipment, until at present their service is practically what it was prior to the war.
TELEPHONE COMPANIES. For the past two years this specific branch of the service that comes under the jurisdiction of the Commission has given all parties at interest much concern. It has not been many years since telephone service was practically in its infancy. It has no doubt developed more rapidly and such service has been more in demand than the service of any of the other utilities over which this Commission has control. The Southern Bell Telephone & Telegraph Company owns and operates 52 exchanges in South Carolina, while 130 are independently owned and operated. Like all other utilities rendering service during the past three years these companies have been subjected to the increase in wages, material and apparatus necessary to their business in furnishing efficient telephone service. Much time has been consumed in hearing complaints, and in reviewing and revising rates which was absolutely necessary for the existence of these companies. While in some instances the service is not yet up to the standard, in most cases service has been improved and at this time is practically equal to the pre-war service, notwithstanding the fact that this class of service is the most delicate to render and the system, as well as the instruments, are subject to many conditions that put same out of commission. Electrical storms especially have a very detrimental effect upon these utilities and are a continuous source of annoyance to the subscribers as well as to the owners and the Railroad Commission. Each complaint has been handled where necessary, separately and individually, and decisions rendered according to the law and testimony produced at such hearings.
Only two telephone exchanges have been permitted to suspend operation in South Carolina during the year 1920. This was due to unfortunate conditions over which apparently no one had control. Storms played some part in connection with the suspension of these exchanges, but the financial condition of the country the most important part. Rates could not be increased above the usual rate and the companies maintain their patronage, and with what rates and patronage they had they were financially unable to maintain their plants in such way that service could be rendered. The Commission hopes that there will be some reorganization of these two exchanges and that the people of the communities which they heretofore served will be in position to receive adequate telephone service.
Express service in South Carolina is rendered almost wholly by the American Railway Express Company. This service during Federal control was far from satisfactory, in some instances possibly due to the management and employees, and in other ways to conditions over which the officials could have no control but which helped to contribute to inefficient service. Many new men had to be taken into the service and on account of the slow movement of freight the express company was burdened with a class of traffic that should never have moved by express. A great portion of the time in 1919 the express company was little more than a heavy freight carrier. This kind of traffic the company was not prepared to handle, and as a matter of fact entailed delays, and often loss and damage of prqoperty. Transportation affairs have been so clarified within the past three months that little of this kind of traffic is tendered the express company, and the traffic is rapidly getting back to normal, and fewer complaints are coming in against the service rendered. The greatest difficulty the Commission has experienced in maintaining express service at many points in South Carolina is due to the fact that at the average station the railroad agent is expected to handle express shipments. In many cases these agents, for one cause or the other, have deliberately and absolutely refused to handle express shipments, thereby bringing about an unfortunate state of affairs in such communities where the express office has to be closed even temporarily. However, recently there seems to be a better understanding between the express and railway companies and the Commission is usually able to bring about results that continue express service at places of this kind.
FREIGHT CAR SHORTAGE.
In the early fall months of this year this State suffered from an acute shortage of freight equipment due to the transferring of many hundreds of cars from this district to other districts, which condition was brought about through orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission. However, with the carriers repairing and placing into service hundreds of bad-order cars, and with the great decrease in traffic at present, no such shortage exists. On the other hand, the carriers have thousands of cars standing idle.
CLASSIFICATION AND FREIGHT RATES.
This is a branch of railroad service that requires much work by the Railroad Commission, and at the present time there is no exception to this fact as the work in the adjustment of these matters has been much heavier than at any previous time in the history of the Commission. Under the Transportation Act passed by Congress both interstate and intrastate rates were placed almost wholly, if not entirely, under the control of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and all this Commission can do is to plead for proper adjustment of the rates as they exist. The Commission has had several hearings before the Interstate Commerce Commission on such matters and the present arrangement certainly works a hardship on the patrons of the carriers, to say nothing as to the time and expense incurred in appearing before the Interstate Commerce Commission on strictly local matters which could and should be handled by State regulatory authorities. However, as long as the present Transportation Act remains law these facts as to rates will remain as above outlined.
OVERCHARGE, LOSS AND DAMAGE CLAIMS. During the past two years this has been a source of much worry and has taken much of the Commission's time in aiding the public to investigate overcharge, loss and damage claims. In case of overcharge the Commission has handled each and every complaint on its merits. In regard to loss and damage claims, the Commission has done what it could to have same adjusted, but this body is not a court of proper jurisdiction to handle claims other than those for overcharge. We are pleased to note quite an improvement in this line of complaint.
CASES PENDING BEFORE THE COURTS. At this time only one case is pending in the Federal Courts, other than rate case which is now before the Interstate Commerce Commission. As heretofore stated, the Charleston-Isle of Palms Traction Company case is still pending in the Federal courts. Since our last report the case of the Augusta-Aiken Railway & Electric Corporation against the South Carolina Railroad Commission has been decided in favor of the carriers by the Federal court.