PETALUMA, Calif. (KRON) — Drivers in Petaluma who are burdened with the choice between paying for a mechanical violation or buying groceries could now have those repairs made for free. The Petaluma Police Department is the first in Northern California to take part in the Lights On! initiative.

Here’s how the voucher program works. If you spend any time behind the wheel on the road, at some point you will inevitably look in the rearview mirror and see an officer trailing with their patrol lights on and come to find out you have a tail or headlight out.

Often, the encounter ends with a costly citation to get the malfunction fixed.

“We’re always trying to find ways to improve our trust and confidence with the citizens and our community members,” explained Petaluma PD Lieutenant Matthew Parnow.

Now in Petaluma, police officers can offer an alternative to a ticket.

“This is our voucher booklet,” explained Parnow.

This week, the Lights On! program launched in Petaluma. It’s an initiative funded by the nonprofit organization, Microgrants.

“Especially for lower income motorists, it’s going to help with the costs and the fees associated with lighting violations,” said Parnow.

In lieu of a citation, the officer can offer a voucher worth up to $250 to have the mechanical issue fixed at a partnering auto shop in town. Hansel Autogroup and Local Heroes Auto Repair have signed on.

“I thought it was something good for the safety of everybody out there,” said Freddy Blue.

Blue owns three Local Heroes shops in Petaluma and Santa Rosa. He says customers can bring their vouchers and cars in for repairs. He will then invoice Lights On! for the fees.

“Look out for yourself. Make sure that you are doing the best that you can to be seen and to see others,” said Blue.

“In the end, if we are able to repair a light or we work with community to repair a light, whether it be a front light or a backlight, we’re ultimately accomplishing our goal of making the community a safe place,” said Parnow.

Across 21 states, the Lights On! program has partnered with 163 law enforcement agencies.
It was founded in 2017. Since then, more than 10,000 vouchers have been redeemed.