Busted brake lights? No problem. Signals don't work? Don't worry about it.
Instead of police handing over tickets, some police on Long Island will soon be handing out vouchers to get the broken parts fixed, as part of a new initiative.
The program, called "Lights On," was recently launched by Suffolk County, and will provide free car repairs to drivers.
Starting in June, if Suffolk police pull over a driver over for a defective brake light, head light or turn signals, the officers won’t be issuing a ticket. Instead, they'll hand over a voucher to cover the cost of replacing those defective lights.
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Advocates say the program, which is funded by private donations and is now in a dozen states, makes roads safer and builds trust between police and the public.
"What’s better than donating money that could save somebody’s life?" said Steve Castleton, who donated $15,000 to help fund the program in Suffolk County.
Currently, drivers who get a ticket for defective lights must repair them within 24 hours or face fines. If not addressed, the situation often spirals into more fines and even license suspensions. The "Lights On" program is intended to help prevent that.
"All of a sudden, the anxiety is down, the communication starts. We’re not talking at each other. We’re talking with each other," said Sherman Patterson, who helped organize Lights On in Minnesota.
The vouchers will cover up to $250 in repairs and will be good for 14 days.
Bernie Schrage's auto repair shop in Patchogue was the first to join the new program. After fixing cars for a quarter-century, he said he's happy to help repair relations between drivers and police, and said it comes at a time when money is tight for many people.
"I know people are hurting. I have customers who can't afford it," he said. "To me it was just common sense."
It's also personal for Schrage: He said his son is now training to be a Suffolk County police officer.
"If it makes [officers'] job easier, helps them with their relationship with the public, then I want in," Schrage said.