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'It's a lonely, scary job;' Stricter penalties for bus driver attacks in House bill

by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 25, 2013 at 4:41 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 25 at 6:42 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- Louisville bus drivers are pushing stricter penalties for those convicted of attacks on bus and taxi drivers.

Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Shively) has proposed the legislation several times in recent years.  It is currently pending the Kentucky House Judiciary Committee.

"In the last year, unfortunately, we've seen some really terrible things happen on TARC buses and unfortunately also that's been seen across the state," Jenkins said.

Last July, 17-year-old Rico Robinson Jr was shot dead on a TARC bus.

A Louisville cab driver was shot twice in a carjacking last August.

TARC estimates it handles a couple of assaults on bus drivers each month.

"Some of it is a driver gets spit on - all the way to they get punched in the jaw," said Barry Barker, TARC Executive Director.  "It's a lonely, scary job."

A TARC driver for over 15 years, Christa Law says she will never forget her scariest day behind the wheel, Oct 21, 2000.

"At 18th and Oak, and one of the passengers boarded and didn't have enough money to ride and beat me up," Laws told WHAS11, "as I was six months pregnant."

House Bill 25 would increase the severity of crimes against bus or cab drivers - from Class B misdemeanors to Class A. Louisville already has stiffer penalties than state law - but the bill sends a message.

"People are not prosecuted," said Jonathan Dooley, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1447, "and those that are prosecuted, it's very little said about it." 

"We're not trying to put people in prison.  We're trying to deter the act from happening," Dooley said.

The packet Dooley shows lawmakers includes a photo of the bruised face of a TARC driver whose driving career was ended by a passenger's attack.

"Right now, bus drivers have to pick up anybody and everybody," Dooley said.  "And they deserve to have a safe workplace."

"If you assault a driver for hire, you're going to be looking at a little more trouble than you would before," Jenkins added.

"It's not dangerous to ride the bus," Barker said.  "But we've got to take care of some of the people who act out and act the fool on the bus and this is one way we can do that."
 

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