PUBLIC buses and taxis in some Chinese cities have metal bars or transparent shields around the driver’s seats to separate the drivers from the passengers.
These were initially installed to protect cabbies from robbers but they now have a wider purpose on the buses – to protect the drivers from attacks by commuters and to foil those who want to grab hold of the steering wheel.
In Beijing, over 70% of buses have driver cabins and some even have buttons to alert the police in case of assaults and other emergencies.
The public transport authorities in other cities are now planning to introduces the same features following several incidents that targeted bus drivers.
In one fatal case recently, the driver lost control of his vehicle, which veered into the opposite lane and collided with a car before plunging into the Yangtze River in Wanzhou of southwestern China’s Chongqing municipality.
Thirteen people on board were killed in the Oct 28 incident and two others are still missing.
Data from the black box revealed that a fight between the bus driver and a passenger caused the accident, and it started simply because the latter had missed her stop.
Investigations showed that the 48-year-old woman demanded that the driver stop immediately after noticing that the vehicle was not on its usual route. Her request was ignored and an argument broke out between the two. The angry woman hit the driver’s head with her cell phone. The driver fought back with his right hand. With that hand lifted off the steering wheel, he lost control of the bus.
It was reported that the 42-year-old driver earlier had to make a detour due to road maintenance and he reminded passengers who wished to get off at the woman’s stop to alight at another one.
In Hunan on Nov 4, an old man grabbed the steering wheel of a public bus after a heated argument with the driver. Luckily, the driver managed to regain control and stopped the bus. It was said that the man, too, missed his destination and wanted the driver to drop him off at once.
On Nov 1, a female bus driver was attacked by a man who was furious with her for closing the door at the back before he could alight. The passenger headed to the front, kicked the coin box and slapped the driver. A scuffle ensued and the man was pulled away by other passengers.
Beginning last week, a number of Chinese cites have been stepping up efforts to keep bus drivers safe, including measures to prevent fights between them and passengers.
The authorities in Xi’an, Wuhan, Changsha, Nanning and Chongqing (where the fatal bus crash took place on Oct 28) have decided that safety partitions must be installed on buses to protect drivers from interference and disturbances caused by passengers.
In addition, buses in more Chinese cities will have warning signs and safety officers.
Xi’an has come up with a whistleblower scheme that offers rewards of up to 5,000 yuan (RM3,000) to those who report misbehaviour on buses.
In Quanzhou of east China’s Fujian province, psychologists will offer counselling services to drivers and teach them ways to manage their emotions when dealing with difficult passengers.
Bus drivers in Nanjing who remain calm when scolded or attacked by passengers will be given a 200-yuan (RM121) compensation.
I started my journalism career as a crime reporter. When I was a rookie, a senior warned me to be prepared to face what could be the most cruel moment – to discover at a crime or accident scene that a victim is someone I know.
Thankfully, this did not happen in my 10 years of covering crime stories.
But rescuer Zhou Xiaobo was not as fortunate. No words could describe how he must have felt when he found out that his father was among those on the ill-fated bus in Chongqing who perished.
The 43-year-old deputy leader of Wanzhou’s Blue Sky Rescue Team was among the first to reach the crash site. He was soon notified by local police that his 76-year-old father, retired teacher Zhou Daguan, was one of the victims.
“In that moment, I knew his chance of survival was very slim. I am heartbroken but I can’t stop my rescue work,” he told China Daily, adding his father had taken the bus to go to a flower exhibition at a park.
Despite his grief, Zhou worked round the clock at the site. During his breaks, he repeatedly called his father’s cell phone, hoping for an answer.
“I wish I could have saved him to tell him I love him very much,” he said after identifying his father’s remains last Thursday.
May all the victims rest in peace.