Public bus drivers get punched, shot at and shoved with alarming frequency across Ohio, leading lawmakers to consider making it a felony to assault a transit worker.
State Reps. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, and Sedrick Denson, D-Cincinnati, want the penalty to be the same as it currently is for assaults on school bus drivers — a fifth degree felony.
To make their case for House Bill 309, the lawmakers released a nearly 4-minute highlight reel of bus camera footage that shows drivers in Cleveland getting pelted with snowballs and drinks, being threatened with scissors, hit with a sock filled with rocks, and repeatedly punched or slapped.
During some violent scuffles, the driver’s foot is inadvertently taken off the brake, causing the buses to drift forward. In other instances, drivers suddenly duck when shots apparently hit the buses.
“It is becoming more obvious with every attack that this is a trend that is not going away,” Perales said. “We need to act now to secure the safety of our transit workers.”
Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority, which has 350 drivers, supports HB309.
“For us, it’s a matter of safety,” RTA spokesman Brandon Policicchio said. “We absolutely support it and think it’s a no-brainer.”
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HB309 would increase the penalty to a fifth degree felony, include a fine of up to $5,000 and add the possibility to be banned from the Ohio transit system for life. The bill would allow transit systems to post placards on the buses listing the rules and penalties.
In September, two female passengers repeatedly hit an RTA bus driver. In June 2018, a driver was punched in the mouth by a disorderly passenger who the driver ordered to get off the bus.
Perales has unsuccessfully advocated for similar legislation in previous sessions.
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