Chinese cities are stepping up their efforts to keep bus drivers safe from violently angry passengers after a tragic bus crash on Oct 28 caused by a woman who attacked the driver. Thirteen people died, and two remain missing.
Keeping passengers separated from the driver's cabin is the most commonly suggested option for improving safety.
Chongqing, where the accident happened, has announced that independent driver's cabins will be set up inside buses, and safety partitions in the form of nets or bars will be installed.
The company that operates buses in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, said that more than half the city's 8,000-plus buses were already equipped with safety partitions before the accident, and it aims to upgrade the rest with safety gates by 2019.
Beijing, where 70 percent of buses have separate driver's cabins, has promised to gradually replace old buses that do not have safety partitions with new ones having such devices.
Dozens of other Chinese cities including Xi'an, Wuhan, Changsha and Nanning also have plans to add safety partitions to buses to protect drivers from possible interference by passengers.
Many more measures have been adopted to help ensure bus safety. An emergency button to call police has been provided to Beijing's bus drivers in case of assaults or other emergencies since 2015, and it's planned to make them available to all drivers by 2020.
The bus company in Nanjing is asking bus drivers not to scold or fight back if assaulted by a passenger. Standard procedure is to stop the bus immediately and then determine what to do next. In cases of assault, drivers will be offered compensation of 200 yuan ($29).
The bus company in Quanzhou, Fujian province, has invited psychologists to offer counseling services to drivers and teach them how to manage their emotions when confronted by an unruly passenger.
The preventive measures were adopted after netizens and media commentators called for improved safety measures on mass transit, as well as greater awareness of the rules by riders.
October's fatal crash was caused by a brawl between the bus driver and a female passenger, the police said. Based on an investigation that included footage from the vehicle's data recorder, police determined that the passenger, surnamed Liu, had missed her stop and asked the driver, surnamed Ran, to pull over. When Ran refused, she began to hit him with her cellphone, causing Ran to lose control of the vehicle.
Following the release of the footage, which angered many netizens, other similar footage showing passengers hitting drivers or grabbing steering wheels were posted online, demonstrating that the problem involves more than a single case.
Many netizens took to social media to call for action to address the problem. Some suggested that passengers should be more proactive and intervene when they see dangerous behavior; others said safety partitions should be installed to keep bus passengers separated from the driver's cabin or called for tougher penalties against offenders.
A court in Shenyang, Liaoning province, recently handed down prison sentences to three people who endangered public safety by distracting bus drivers, Xinhua News Agency reported on Sunday.
"These measures are necessary, but they are not enough," Xinhua said in a commentary. "Public security is closely connected with social morality. The public should strictly follow the law, improve self-discipline and be calmer and more rational."