Cleveland looks at tougher laws for assaults on RTA drivers

CLEVELAND - ATU Local 268 President William H. Nix fielded calls on Tuesday from his union members and from RTA, which issued a policy for his drivers not to talk to the media or they will be reprimanded.

This, after three severe assaults on drivers in the last seven weeks prompted news conferences by the union.

Nix said he hopes a push for plastic enclosures means they will be installed on RTA's 450 buses to protect the drivers and their passengers. He also wants stricter laws to thwart future attacks on drivers.

"We want a joint effort with RTA that, hey, our job is to make certain that our members are safe out there and to make sure the passengers are safe," Nix said.

Several large cities are using the shields already. New Jersey recently approved a $1.82 million contract for their fleet of 820 buses. City transit agencies in Boston, New York City and Miami-Dade County in Florida have already implemented their use with success.

While they may protect drivers, there is concern that if a driver has any medical problems while driving that passengers or EMS workers will not be able to help them quickly enough.

Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell pushed for a resolution to strengthen the laws against passengers for attacks on drivers. All safety concerns regarding the shields and new laws will be discussed at Cleveland City Council's meeting room Wednesday.

"I'm not saying I'm against the shields, but we have to look at the pros and the cons," Conwell said.

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