Protective Barriers to be Tested on RTA Buses

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Recent attacks on bus drivers have RTA officials and union members working to find ways to make drivers safer.

Some solutions already used in other cities could be put to use in Cleveland.

Plastic shields are already in place on mass transit buses in other cities across the country.

"RTA said that they have some photos from Miami, Chicago, I think New York," said William Nix, Sr., the union representative for RTA bus drivers.

Nix said RTA officials asked him to put together a committee to look at and test the shields here in Cleveland.

They place a protective barrier between the driver and any potentially unruly passenger who gets on board.

"That's taking away that PR, personal relations, that we have with our customers, but it's also bringing safety to my members because it looks like it's an epidemic with my members being attack," said Nix.

"Maybe they could put a shield up or like on the airplanes, have a transit officer ride on them once in a while," suggested injured RTA driver Gregory Vranekovic.

Thursday afternoon, Vranekovic was punched in the face by a passenger while driving down Union Avenue.

Last month, a driver had hot coffee thrown on him.

And in September, caught on video, a passenger is seen spitting on and choking a driver, who then gets out of his seat and delivers a strong uppercut to the woman's jaw. They were both charged in the incident, and the driver was later fired.

"You have to still have the laws and the principalities because people might throw things over the top of it and run off or do whatever," said Nix. "You're still in a catch 22 because the shield can only do so much. It just keeps people from violating your space."

He said that in addition to shields, he supports more training for his drivers and statewide legislation that stiffens the penalties for assaulting a transit worker. He feels all of those combined can make traveling on the bus safer for the operator and the passengers.

"We can't wait until somebody dies," said Nix. "We have to do this now, and that's why the shields are very important."

For more on the ongoing RTA coverage, click here.

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