One bus driver is speaking out about the dangers of their job and some changes he thinks could make everyone safer.
"Transit drivers essentially risk their well-being every time they step behind a bus," said Chuck Weigand, who has been a bus operator for 20 years. "The drunks, the intoxicants, the people that are high on meth, dealing drugs on the bus."
Weigand said he recalls an incident about two years ago when a woman got aggressive after he told her she couldn't take her child's tricycle on board.
"She basically threw the bike off the bus, spit in my face, and slapped me and started to punch," Weigand said.
Weigand said the police were called but the woman got away. In case of an emergency, buses are now equipped with video cameras and emergency buttons that connect them with a third party that can listen in, but not to police.
"What we really need is some type of a system where we can get in touch with the police directly, which will speed up the response," Weigand said.
He said he just wants to keep himself, his fellow drivers, and his passengers safe.
"We carry the most precious cargo that there is, people," Weigand said. "A vehicle can be replaced, things can be fixed, but you can't bring back somebody."
The company that runs transit in Phoenix, Veolia Transportation, sent CBS 5 News the following statement:
We continue to strive to improve safety for drivers, passengers and the communities we serve. In this regard Veolia and our client, the City of Phoenix, have taken several measures to help protect employees.
Transit police ride the buses both in uniform and undercover at random intervals. The buses are equipped with a camera system which will record events, and a covert audio system which the driver uses in the event of an emergency. The destination signs, which are on the exterior of the bus, are also equipped with a "Call Police" message.
Training is a big factor in employee safety. Veolia utilizes our proprietary Operator Development program with a portion dedicated to safety awareness and conflict resolution. The company also provides on-going training on a regular basis utilizing both fictional and real scenarios and role playing with drivers so that they understand how best to diffuse a tense or difficult situation.
Any assault on a driver is taken very seriously by the company. While even one assault is too many, serious driver assaults in the Phoenix valley are rare.
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