SEPTA Trains Drivers Under Attack

Drivers are going through specialized training after an increase in violent attacks against transit drivers

Driving a 15-ton bus through city streets can be dangerous enough, but imagine being spit on, shot at or beaten up while you're behind the wheel. Assaults against SEPTA drivers are on the rise. SEPTA records show attacks on drivers increased five-fold between 2010 and 2011 -- from 18 to 91.

You can talk to any driver and chances are, you'll hear a pretty disturbing story.

Bobby Poe, a veteran driver, thought his attacker was simply joking when he said, "I'm about to cut your head off." Moments later, Poe said he realized it was no joke. "As I look up in the mirror, he takes this shoulder bag off and I see this handle coming out and I said, 'This guy really has a knife or something."

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It was a machete and Poe was suddenly in the fight of his life. Poe says he somehow stopped the bus and struggled with the attacker. They both fell out onto the street. Then shock set in for Poe.

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"My brain couldn't tell my legs to work. He's coming down on me with a machete and all I could do was roll down the street," Poe remembers. Poe was eventually able to get up and run and the man with the machete took off as well.

Now SEPTA has rolled out a new training seminar to help drivers learn how to deal with conflict on the job. The goal is to teach drivers how to help keep themselves -- and you -- safe, according to SEPTA's Luther Diggs.

"Most of these situations start out with a minor sort of interaction and it escalates," Diggs says. "The skills they are learning here are how to de-escalate different situations so it doesn't turn into something that's violent."

SEPTA says the training is working and they plan to continue it, indefinitely.

Poe's machete attack isn't the only workplace violence story he has to tell. He's also had a cinder block thrown through his windshield and he has been shot at. But ask him how he feels about his job and you'll hear something like this:

"Anything could happen on that bus, but I still have to say, and it might sound crazy, but I do love this job."

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