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HRT makes upgrades to better protect drivers

Posted at 6:49 PM, Dec 18, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-19 06:10:29-05

Hampton Roads, Va. - NewsChannel 3 first learned about bus driver beatdowns back in May.

HRT drivers told us they encounter them frequently while on the job. Months later, there are still problems, but there have been some improvements.

HRT showed us Friday how they are taking action to protect their drivers.

Tuesday night, a bus driver said he was terrified when he said a passenger got unruly.

Police were called after a passenger was complaining about the length of the ride.

The bus driver told police that the passenger was yelling, cursing, and even got physical by kicking and hitting the bus.

It’s a problem that NewsChannel 3’s Barbara Ciara investigated back in May after a driver was attacked and another driver was fired for the way she handled the situation after a passenger spit on her.

Since the story aired, HRT has taken action to make their drivers safer.

General Superintendent of Maintenance Michael Smith said, "That’s the main purpose, keep the passengers safe and the operators safe.”

Now there are Plexiglas barriers between passengers and the driver on five of the newer buses, and HRT leaders say all new buses will have this added piece of safety equipment.

They have also installed monitors in 50 of the buses. HRT leaders say the purpose of the monitors is to let people know they are being watched and make them more aware of the security cameras.

“When passengers get onto the bus, they will see themselves and know they are being recorded and hopefully it will deter them from doing anything they shouldn’t be doing,” said Smith.

They said the goal is to eventually have all 310 buses in the fleet equipped with them.

HRT leaders said finding the money in the budget to make upgrades is always a challenge.

They said they’ve added cameras and provided drivers with additional training on how to protect themselves and diffuse troublesome situations.

In this recent case, there was no protective barrier and the driver says he feared for his life – but so far, no charges have been filed.

With more improvements in the works, the hope is to better protect those behind the wheel and prevent problems from getting out of control.

Related: 

How far can HRT drivers go to protect themselves?

Bus driver beatdown investigation prompts action from HRT CEO, Virginia Secretary of Transportation