Bus drivers not safe

Bus drivers are at high risk, BusVic’s Prevention of Aggression to Bus Drivers report reveals

Bus drivers not safe
Melbourne bus timetable

More than 100 bus drivers have been assaulted since the start of 2014, a Bus Association of Victoria (BusVic) report has found.

The report recommends having safety officers on board buses, self-defence courses for drivers and harsher custodial sentences for attackers.

BusVic executive director Chris Lowe says penalties must be harsher for those who assault bus drivers and pose a risk to passengers.

"We need government to come to the table and adopt the recommendations we have made," he says.

"We need Protective Services Officers (PSOs) on buses and trams, not just metro rail.

"This needs to happen, but the previous state government didn’t want a bar of it.

"There is a need for need Public Transport Victoria, BusVic and unions to develop a curbing anti-social behaviour on public transport campaign.

"Something must be done ungently; potential attackers must know the consequences and the penalties need to be very high.

"This problem is not unique to buses, fire-fighters and ambulance officers are also being assaulted more than ever.

"We need to legislate for larger custodial sentences, to send a strong message that this kind of behaviour is completely inappropriate."

Seventy per cent of drivers in Melbourne faced aggressive behaviour from a passenger once a month or more, the Prevention of Aggression to Bus Drivers report revealed.

Also 63 per cent of drivers say they do not feel supported by their employer when communicating aggressive behaviour from passengers.

Lowe points to a recent case where a man drug-affected man attracted a bus driver and was captured by CCTV, but only ended up serving 10 per cent of his sentence.

"It’s not good enough," Lowe says.

"We need to stronger laws, to protect drivers and passengers."

Some people are scared of using public transport for this very reason, Lowe says.

"There are people who won’t use public transport.

"That’s exactly what we are trying to overcome.

"It’s not just drivers who are risk, but passengers as well."

When asked if it may take a serious incident to occur before the Victorian Government stands up and takes notice, Lowe says it may - but action must be taken now.

"I really hope not, I don’t want to have to do this after the death of a driver," Lowe says.

"Bus operators are about to push the button on safety screens (in metropolitan Melbourne), to protect drivers from offenders, including those brandishing weapons.

"They have drivers caged in Perth, we have found an alternative to that, but drivers must be protected."

Drivers who suffer assaults and threats are often in fear of returning to the job.

While it remains to be seen if the Victorian Government will act on these recommendations, the roll out of protective screens for Victorian bus drivers will occur before the end of this year.

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