Young thugs on the buses and off their heads

 

A QUEENSLAND bus driver has been suspended after she grabbed the sleeve of a youth who allegedly stole $5 and punched her in the stomach.

Rail Tram and Bus Union spokesman Tom Brown told the Sunday Mail the female Brisbane City Council casual driver was suspended after she jumped off the bus and chased a teenage girl who boasted about taking the money and how there was nothing the driver could do.

The girl, who was later charged, allegedly punched the driver in the stomach after she grabbed her sleeve.

Mr Brown said the driver - who had also been confronted by children kicking the bus, with one spitting at her as she tried to close the door - had not been at work since the September incident.

Mr Brown said another female driver, who had coins thrown in her face by a man in his 20s, had cuts on her nose and eyelid from her glasses smashing.

"She could have lost an eye,'' Mr Brown said.

He said this driver was also suspended, because in the heat of the moment, she chased the young passenger off the bus and slapped him in the face. She is now on sick leave.

Last year, council drivers reported 521 instances of driver abuse or assault. So far this year, 606 instances have been reported, including 53 assaults.

A scene from a TV campaign on bus driver assaults
A scene from a TV campaign on bus driver assaults

"Assaults have been averaging one a week for the past two years, although 900 Brisbane City Council buses have been fitted with partial screens," Mr Brown said.

"It's like being in a war zone,'' one female BCC driver said. "Children are out of control and nobody is doing anything to stop it.''

Other drivers have reported repeated problems with children inhaling substances, an act known as chroming, on-board buses and at bus stops.

Chromers' cans left on bus seats
Chromers' cans left on bus seats

Mr Brown said chroming seemed to spike during school holidays and this year the union had warned drivers about exposure risks, including headaches, drowsiness and blurred vision.

"It's a massive distraction for drivers,'' he said.

One asthmatic driver, who inhaled fumes while kids were chroming on a BCC bus, fractured a rib from severe coughing, a bus union representative said.

A driver who has experienced at least six incidents with chroming children in the last year said many were repeat offenders.

"I say, 'I'm happy to take you, but no chroming', and they immediately start chroming,'' the driver said.

"It hypes them up, makes them very unpredictable and aggressive.''

Many children refused to pay the fare, claiming they had no money.

"We're not allowed to refuse them because they're children. They know they can do whatever they like,'' the driver said.

"Many of these drivers have ongoing long-term physical and psychological injuries due to the abuse that they have suffered in the workplace,'' Greg Spinda of Maurice Blackburn said. "Brisbane City Council needs to take immediate action.''

A BCC spokesman said the council wanted the State Government to urgently act so they could tackle the increase in reports of chroming with legal action against anyone who used a council bus as a place to inhale chemicals.

"The State Government has made it illegal for a passenger to take a coffee on a bus, but there is no law surrounding chroming,'' the spokesman said.

If a bus driver reported chroming on their bus, the council could seek police assistance and relieve the driver from duty, the spokesman said.

Council is also looking into full safety barriers for its buses in 2020.