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Suffolk County rolling out pilot program that gives out vouchers to fix broken car lights, instead of tickets

Suffolk County Police launch pilot program giving drivers vouchers to fix broken car lights 02:22

PATCHOGUE, N.Y. -- It's first for law enforcement in our area.

Police in Suffolk County will soon be handing out vouchers for free repairs when they stop drivers with broken car lights. As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Thursday, the pilot program is already in a dozen states around the nation.

No headlight? No brake or signal light?

No problem.

In Suffolk, police are rolling out a pilot program they say helps the public and police. It's new approach to broken car lights that cause accidents.

"Here is a voucher that is going to get your light fixed. All of a sudden their anxiety is down, communication starts. We are not talking at each other. We are talking with each other," said Sherman Patterson, program director for Lights On!

No more ticketing for a broken light at the dreaded traffic stop. Instead, police will hand out a voucher to get it fixed.

"Road and driver safety and enhancing community and police relations and trust. That is a win-win scenario," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Donors fund the Lights On! vouchers, an outgrowth of police reform to foster positive interactions. No more $100 ticket with 24 hours to pay. The $250 voucher is valid for 14 days at participating auto shops.

"Back in the good old days it used to cost to change a light $5, $10, but now bulbs have gone crazy," Engine Tech owner Bernie Schrage said.

A repair for some is unaffordable, with the ticket leading to a downward spiral. Steven Castleton knows the feeling and now partially funds the program.

"I grew up with eviction notices, lights off, no food in the house," Castleton said. "I know what it's like to have to choose between fixing a car and putting food on the table."

"This one initiative can change someone's life because if I have to take time off of work within 24 hours, that means I'm taking shifts off of work. It's saving time and lives," Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg said.

The initiative is coming as a shock to some drivers.

"Phenomenal, to be honest," one person said.

"Why not just five a voucher for a new car? Where do you draw the line?" another person said.

If someone receives the voucher and still doesn't get the light fixed, their free ride, if they're stopped they'll get an invitation to traffic court and will be fined, Gusoff reported.

Suffolk County is seeking more donors to fund the vouchers and auto shops to accept them.

The county handed out 24,000 tickets in 2019 for all sorts of equipment issues. The pilot program is initially funded with $70,000 in donations and grants.

Auto shops can head to to participate. 

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