August 28, 2014 9:20 pm
Updated: August 28, 2014 10:21 pm

Pilot project to put bus drivers behind protective shields gets underway

WATCH: A pilot project to better protect transit bus drivers from abusive passengers will begin soon in Metro Vancouver. Jill Bennett has details.

It is the latest step in helping make Metro Vancouver bus drivers feel safer on the job.

Later this year, Plexiglass shield prototypes will be installed as part of a pilot project on a handful of Metro Vancouver buses.

Two shield prototypes will be tested in Victoria and Vancouver for six months.

If approved, they could eventually be installed on up to 1,600 busses.

The shield is meant to serve as a barrier between the driver and potentially violent passengers.

A long history of drivers being punched, spit on and sexually assaulted has prompted the innovation.

In March, a female bus driver was violently assaulted in an unprovoked attack, in which she suffered trauma, bruises, had quantities of her hair pulled out and her glasses smashed in the struggle.

WATCH: A bus driver who was viciously attacked on her job is speaking out about her ordeal


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Global News

Later this year, a 42-year-old woman in a wheelchair punched a bus driver in the head in Vancouver. She was later arrested.

Another bus driver in Surrey had his nose broken when he was punched while his bus was still in motion. The driver was able to bring the bus to a stop and open the doors, allowing the suspect to leave. Aside from the broken nose, the driver suffered broken bones in his face, continuing vision impairment in one eye and loosened teeth.

Union officials say the operators will be consulted for input before any permanent shields are installed.

“It is an opportunity to review it, criticize it to make sure that all of the concerns are listened to, and then there is the trial process for six months to get a broader perspective,” says Unifor local 111 President Nathan Woods. “One of the biggest concerns would be the passenger-driver relationship.”

When similar shields were tested in 2010, many drivers didn’t like them because they felt too closed off from their passengers. The drivers Global News talked to today were also divided on the idea.

So far this year, there have been 65 assaults on drivers that have led to criminal charges.

Transit police say they are happy with the outcomes of some of the trials involving bus driver assaults.

“In the last week alone, we’ve had three convictions for assaults against bus drivers with sentences that range from four months in jail to one year probation,” says Anne Drennan with Transit Police.

But the goal is to stop the assaults before they happen.

“The average time loss for a transit employee recovering from an assault is 59 days,” says Woods. “That is a lot of cash that could be unnecessary to pay out if there is no assault.”

With files from Jill Bennett

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