NEW JERSEY DRIVER
NJ Transit (NJT) has approved the addition of safety shields to 820 more buses to protect drivers from attacks, which have been numbering about one per week, Mike Frassinelli writes for The Star-Ledger.
Karen Rouse reports for NorthJersey.com that 70 NJ Transit buses already have the shields, in a pilot program that began two years ago.
The move to add 820 more shields follows several violent incidents last year, as Frassinelli writes:
“In a little over two months last year, an unprovoked stabbing in Newark left a driver near death on Oct. 22, a brick was thrown through the windshield of a bus in Newark on Oct. 28 and there were two armed robberies of bus drivers in Camden County on the 400 bus line that runs between Philadelphia and Sicklerville, officials said. The first robbery was on Aug. 16 and the second on Aug. 29, officials said. […]
During the Oct. 22 attack, bus operator Ihab Abounaja was stabbed multiple times by a passenger on Hawthorne Avenue in Newark as the bus driver unloaded passengers. Abounaja recovered from the stab wounds to his arms, neck, chest and head.”
Rouse writes that the shields, which include rear and side barriers, enclose about 75 percent of the driver's compartment, but do not interfere with communication between passengers and the driver, or with fare transactions, according to NJT. She reports that NJT's Executive Director Jim Weinstein said some drivers were nervous that the shields would "imprison them." But Ry Greaves, an official with Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents bus drivers, said he welcomes the shields.
Frassinelli quotes Weinstein: "We concluded that, while there was some disagreement among operators about the value of these, in the end it was about protecting the men and women who operate buses."
The shield kits are being supplied by Bentech Inc. of Philadelphia for $2,220 each, and will be installed by NJT at its central maintenance facility, Frassinelli writes. He notes that as a result of NJT's decision, future replacement buses will already have the shields in them when they come off the assembly line, according to Joyce Gallagher, NJ Transit’s vice president and general manager of bus operations.
Judy Pokras has been a professional journalist for over 10 years, and has written for The New York Times and the Daily Record. She is currently head blogger for the Law Offices of Daniel R. Rosen, a car accident law firm with over 25 years experience. Judy covers auto technology and auto safety on the firm's daily blog. Connect with Judy on Google+.