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The Victorian Government is being urged to follow measures recently put in place in South Australia

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By Amie Hickland | November 11, 2013

BusVic is hoping the State Government will follow a move made in South Australia to classify bus drivers’ occupation as vulnerable.

The South Australian declaration, under Section 5AA of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, allows police to consider offences committed against a bus driver - in the course of their duties - as ‘aggravated’ offences.

BusVic Executive Director Chris Lowe hopes the Victorian Government will consider undertaking a similar measure.

"BusVic recently requested the Victorian Attorney General include bus drivers in proposed legislation which at the time, was designed to provide longer custodial sentences for people who assault police officers or emergency workers whilst they are carrying out their duties," he says.

"Driving buses is a high risk job and dealing with abusive, aggressive and violent passengers has the massive impact on drivers' health and wellbeing."

Lowe says there has been an alarming rise in assaults in Victoria over the last few years.

More than 30 assaults were reported against drivers and passengers in 2012–2013 - an increase of nearly a third compared to the previous year.

Reported incidents include bus drivers being spat on, threatened with knives and physically abused.

BusVic also have anecdotal evidence from members the amount of non-reported incidents take the figure to around 200 assaults a year which is about one assault per day per school year.

The increase prompted Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) to create a manual to help bus operators and drivers to manage difficult or aggressive passengers, according to Lowe.

"However, there is no doubt that the figures are incomplete as assaults of bus drivers resulting in only minor injuries to drivers are not reported to TSV as operators are only obliged to notify TSV of the more serious type of incidents," he says.

"This is completely unacceptable and I'm pleased that industry, unions and government here in Victoria are discussing what can be done, not just in terms of legislation, but also in terms of research, education and enforcement, to curb this problem."

Lowe congratulates the South Australian Government on the move which he says is timely and appropriate.

"Hopefully it will go toward reducing the amount of incidents and the huge economic and social costs associated with physical and/or verbal abuse of bus drivers."

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