Assaults on Cleveland bus drivers follow a national trend: a growing number of stressed-out riders are attacking with words and fists, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A painful economy is squeezing patience and pocketbooks, and passengers bristle and lash out at drivers pressing them for fares. The trend is historical. When the economy turns down, reports of riders spitting on and verbally abusing drivers go up. Driver assault took the spotlight in Cleveland after a vicious uppercut went viral on the web. Bus driver Artis Hughes argued with an irate passenger after they clashed over bus fare. Witnesses said the woman, Shi' Dea Lane, spit on and put her hands on Hughes while the bus was moving. An enraged Hughes stopped the coach, buckled Lane with a punch and threw her off the bus.
"People stuck in poverty will take out their frustrations on the bus driver who is seen as a rolling representative of the government, demanding increasing taxes in the form of fares for a ride," says Larry Hanley, international president of the Amalgamated Transit Union. Tax-supported transit agencies are taking steps -- some of them costly -- to protect bus drivers and to quell hostility from the small percent of riders who act out.