Assaults on SEPTA drivers spur move to increase protection, penalties

    Pennsylvania state lawmakers and area transit agency officials propose increasing penalties for those who injure transit drivers.

    SEPTA employees have been attacked nearly 50 times this year. Those attacks, including shootings, robberies and sexual assaults, add up to the highest number ever, official said.

    SEPTA general manager Joe Casey, who said his employees sometimes have a difficult job dealing with the public, said the proposed change to existing law could help.

    “Senate Bill 236 would add bus operators to a class of protected workers–such as police officers, firefighters, mail carriers and public utility employees–and upgrade the charges against these criminals to aggravated assaults,” he said.

    Transport Workers Union President John Johnson says protecting mass transit drivers could save passengers’ lives.

    “If I’m operating a bus and someone hits me, that bus becomes a bullet, I could run into another lane and have a head-on collision,” he said.

    State Sen. Tina Tartaglione has introduced the bill for seven years. She said she is hoping this year it finally will gain traction in Harrisburg.

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