Saturday, November 23, 2013

Keeping bus drivers safe keeps bus riders safe, too

Ottawa's City Council recently voted unanimously to support two private-members bills presented to Parliament that seek to toughen penalties against people who assault operators on public transit in Canada. Both Bill C-533 (moved by Liberal MP Ralph Goodale) and Bill C-402 (moved by NDP MP Peter Julian) are in progress and were written to offer more protection for public transit employees.

The city's vote comes on the heels of a recent well-known assault in Ottawa, for which a man who pulled his bus driver from the vehicle and beat him bloody received only a suspended sentence and no prison time.

Mayor Jim Watson was quoted in the Ottawa Sun after the City of Ottawa's vote, and he had this to say:
"Broadly speaking, a driver is vulnerable when operating a vehicle. They're focusing on the road and upcoming hazards, looking ahead and checking mirrors, with both hands on the wheel. And they're doing all this, sitting by themselves, while trying to keep the other passengers in the vehicle safe. In the case of transit operators, these passengers can number in the hundreds or thousands in a given day."
There's enough for operators to worry about even if they're not at serious risk of being assaulted--and sadly, the numbers suggest they are at risk. The president of the union that represents OC Transpo operators said that there are, on average, about 60 physical assaults on drivers every year; that's more than one per week.

Bus drivers obviously need better protection, for their individual sakes and for the sake of the passengers they're ferrying around the city. Hopefully these bills pass and can offer that protection.

1 comment:

Wassim said...

Not sure stiffer penalties would result in less crime. Not sure there is necessarily a correlation between mandatory minimums and crime rates. That being said, I can understand victims feeling abandoned by the justice system and wanting some additional checks and balances.

It might make sense to provide physical barriers between the driver and the public if we are serious about curbing violence against them.