Kelowna bus drivers hopeful shield prototype design will improve - InfoNews

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Kelowna bus drivers hopeful shield prototype design will improve

Kelowna driver Al Peressini behind the wheel of the only bus in Kelowna currently equipped with a protective shield.
February 28, 2018 - 11:02 AM

KELOWNA – Al Peressini feels safer driving bus 6013.

B.C. Transit began a test run in January by installing onto one Kelowna bus a prototype shield designed to increase drivers’ safety.

Amalgamated Transit Union local 1722 president Scott Lovell first started calling for shields in May 2016 after four of his drivers in Kelowna were assaulted in one day. He says some drivers worried that a shield would cut them off from the community but called the severity of the attack a wake up call.

It started when a passenger “got directly in the face” of a driver, Lovell says, and threatened to drag him out of the bus and beat him.

Later that night, when another driver refused to let a passenger get on his bus with a bicycle, the driver was “hit several times in the body.”

Lovell says another driver was pepper-sprayed in the face by a drunk “who was using the bus as a pub.”

“From the looks of the bus afterwards, it appears the entire pepper spray can was emptied,” he says in the release. “The screams on the radio for help were… deafening.”

The fourth assault happened later that night when a female driver was “forcibly confronted” by a passenger who wasn’t allowed to get on the bus through the rear doors due to a safety concern.

Bus driver Peressini says the shield would have helped in each of those situations, and he wants to see an improved version on every Okanagan bus.

Three years ago a passenger struck a Kelowna bus driver with a syringe and Peressini hopes an effective shield will stop the “punch and run.”

Lovell agrees the prototype isn’t perfect.

The glass stops roughly a metre from the roof and windshield, enough, Lovell says, that drivers will still have to keep one eye looking over their shoulder. He says his members want complete enclosure.

“(Someone) can still reach around, and... yank him out of his seat,” he says. “Or... throw coffee over.”

Peressini calls it’s a good start.

“If they want to get me, they’re going to get me, but it will slow down an attack enough so that we can get on the radio and get a hold of a supervisor. I think it will be a good deterrent.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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