Local News

GoDurham bus drivers attacked after telling riders to mask up

Posted September 21, 2021 5:11 p.m. EDT
Updated September 21, 2021 7:59 p.m. EDT

— Police are now checking for problems on GoDurham buses after two drivers were assaulted this month while trying to enforce the requirement that passengers wear masks.

Sean Egan, Durham's transportation director, said the latest attack, on Sept. 8, resulted in injuries to the driver. A third driver was assaulted several months ago, he said.

Drivers Percival Patterson and Tameka Walker plan to discuss their safety concerns with the Durham City Council on Thursday.

"Most of it is mask wearing. They get on the bus, and they don’t want to wear masks," Patterson told WRAL News. "When you ask them to put their mask on, they just want off."

Some GoDurham riders said they were saddened to hear what drivers are facing.

"It’s scary because they’re here to do a job and make a living as well," Earl Bradley said. "What if a bus driver gets attacked while passengers are on the bus? That’s, like, dangerous."

"I think that the riders, or passengers, should respect the drivers. That’s their job, and they’re doing their job properly," Jessica Wilkins said. "I don’t think they deserve to be attacked for any reason."

Egan said the city is installing safety partitions in GoDurham buses to separate drivers from the passenger area. Also, police last week began patrolling bus routes where drivers have had problems with unruly passengers, he said.

So far this year, he said, "approximately 100 onboard incidents" have been reported. He added that GoDurham has provided 2.6 million passenger trips this year.

The city also is looking at technologies that would allow drivers and passengers to report crimes while on board buses and at bus stops.

About one-fifth of GoDurham's 139 driver positions are vacant. Although the city is raising salaries and offering bonuses to help recruit more drivers, Egan said that safety is one of the main concerns for potential drivers, so officials are working with drivers to see what more they can do.

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