Taillight out? Urbana's 'Fix-It Tickets' may lend hand

Taillight out? Urbana's 'Fix-It Tickets' may lend hand

URBANA — A new program to assist drivers with broken car lights was pitched to the Urbana City Council this week.

"Fix-it Tickets" would offer payment vouchers to drivers pulled over by police for broken headlights, taillights, blinkers or license-plate lights. Each would have a price limit of $20 and expire 60 days after being issued.

Preston James, the city's community-relations specialist, said a pilot version of the program would start July 1 and cost $2,500 in reallocated money the city already has.

The vouchers would only cover the cost of new car lightbulbs — not the labor needed to replace them. A local auto parts store, the pick has not been announced by the city yet, would fulfill vouchers and shoulder the labor costs as a favor.

There are situations where vouchers won't be offered:

— If the stop of the driver leads to a criminal arrest.

— If the vehicle is structured in a way that makes it difficult to replace the broken light, such as having a bumper that needs to be removed before a light can be reached.

— If the car sustains electrical or structural damage but a light isn't broken.

— If a person has already received a voucher during the pilot program. James said he and Urbana police will keep track of who receives them.

Any driver stopped in Urbana for an applicable broken light would be offered a voucher by police, regardless of where they live, and recipients are free to decline.

James said the city council won't vote on approving Fix-it Tickets by itself, but the program will be included in the upcoming fiscal year's budget.

If approved, James said the city will review how the pilot program went — after the $2,500 runs out — and decide what to do going forward.

Urbana police crime analyst Melissa Haynes said that from October 2017 to March 2018, there could have been 172 Fix-It Tickets offered at the most.