Attacks on bus drivers can also have serious consequences for innocent pedestrians and drivers
As a daily transit user in Metro Vancouver, there are many times when I get frustrated with TransLink bus drivers. Often they leave a couple of minutes earlier than posted times and I miss my bus, or they are simply plain rude. That said, there has never been a single circumstance whereby I think their actions warranted a violent reaction. Unfortunately, that view is not universally shared and bus drivers are often treated like punching bags. In fact, in 2009 there were 150 assaults on local transit operators in Metro Vancouver.
On Boxing Day another thug beat up on a bus driver in Metro Vancouver. Luckily for the bus driver, they were not seriously injured - at least physically. It would appear some thugs (both sober and drunk) still think it's cool or acceptable to beat up on bus drivers.
The Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) has been regularly calling for stiffer penalties for those individuals who choose to attack bus drivers. Unlike other public servants such paramedics and police officers, they are not offered special protection under the Criminal Code of Canada. Punch out a cop and you face some serious penalties including jail time. Punch out a bus driver behind the wheel of a 20 ton vehicle filled with innocent passengers and you face a slap on the wrist.
In 2007 NDP MP Peter Julien asked Parliament to change the Code to include stiffer penalties for physical attacks on bus drivers. His motion (see below) does not appear to have gone anywhere:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should extend to Bus Drivers and Transit Operators, the same protections under the Criminal Code afforded to Police, and Ambulance Personnel, who are assaulted while performing their duties, by establishing stiff penalties for anyone who assaults a Bus Driver or A Transit Operator.
A frustrated CAW Local 111 President Don MacLeod reacted to the most recent attack on a TransLink driver by telling CKNW news;
They maybe get some community work, they might get a no-go transit but because of privacy issues nobody can identify who they are. It's time for the law to step up and give the Courts the ability to have stiffer penalties.
There are those that believe singling out bus drivers as opposed to nurses or other public sector employees is going too far. They claim that attacks on nurses happen far more frequently than attacks on bus drivers. This may well be true, however, nurses aren't driving large vehicles in busy traffic with 100 passengers while under attack. What is unique about violent attacks on bus drivers is they can impact everyone around them including innocent pedestrians and drivers.
I agree with the CAW on this one and think the time has come for Canada's big city mayors to call upon Parliament to make driving buses safer for everyone.
Bus drivers perform a very valuable service for the millions of urban dwellers who use transit on a weekly basis. We rely upon their safety and security to get us home to our loved ones every night. Therefore, ensuring we have the proper laws to protect them from serious injury should be a high priority. Let's hope that 2010 brings some serious time for the serious crime of attacking our bus drivers.
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- Post by Daniel