Shining a dim light on Lights On!

We’ll see.

About three years from now, we may find out how helpful law enforcement’s latest goodwill gimmick has been.

Earlier this week three police agencies—San Diego, Chula Vista and National City—announced they would participate in Lights On!, a program that allows police to issue vouchers for car repairs to motorists they pull over for broken light violations.

Beginning April 1 (no, it’s not an April Fool’s gag, it’s the date vouchers are supposed to be made available by the Minneapolis non-profit spearheading the effort) when Officer Friendly pulls you over for having a broken taillight, she’ll have the option of giving you a $250 voucher for repair rather than a citation.

Provided the stop wasn’t a ruse to determine if you had any warrants, were driving under the influence or were up to no good you may be on your way with a redeemable IOU at a participating mechanic.

Of course, if Friendly does find you’re driving without a valid license or breaking any number of other laws you’ll still probably get popped for those violations, so a busted taillight may be the least of your worries.

The nonprofit thinks the program will go a long way in building better relationships between police and the communities they serve while at the same time easing a financial burden, writing:

“A broken taillight or turn signal can mean choosing between an auto repair or buying groceries for your family. It can also spark a downward economic spiral that could lead to multiple tickets, confrontations with law enforcement, and even vehicle impoundment. Lights On! disrupts that downward spiral and builds goodwill between police and the communities they serve.”

No doubt an unexpected auto repair can be a heavy burden for some. For others it may be merely as inconvenient as an untied shoelace.

The program funding is supposed to last three years, depending on how many vouchers are issued and redeemed.

As middlemen and distributors of the funding, will benefit from all the good PR.

But we don’t know if police will be tracking each motorist’s income level and financial need, so we may not find out if motorists who really need a financial break ultimately benefit.