Group changes brake lights for free to prevent fines for drivers

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NEW ORLEANS -- Getting a ticket for a broken taillight is never good. But, when you can't pay the fine, it goes from bad to really bad.

The New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America want to prevent tail light tickets from getting really bad for drivers. So, they set up a tent in Central City, set out some tools, and offered to change broken taillights for free.

They called it "Gimme a Brake (L!ght)." And, although the title may be playful, the reason the DSA was out there is serious.

"One of the main reasons people get pulled over are broken taillights," says New Orleans DSA member Michelle Hanks. "And, a lot of people who aren't able to pay those tickets--that can kind of snowball into other things. They may not be able to pay. Or, they may end up going to jail."

The idea for Gimme a Brake (L!ght) came when a DSA member got pulled over for a broken tail light. "She wound up fixing it herself," says DSA member Frances Gill. "And, she thought, 'Oh, this is pretty easy. This is a thing we can do for people.'"

Gill says they had a similar event in August and fixed 50 brake lights. This morning, a steady stream of cars, SUVs, and even a scooter rolled up into the parking lot at Baronne St. and Euterpe St. to get their taillights fixed for free.

The rain paused the event briefly. When they packed up the tent and tools, they had fixed 17 brake lights. Some needed one light fixed. Others needed both lights changed. But, anyone who came got a new brake light--although, some were easier to change than others.

"Trucks and SUVs are definitely the simplest. It's usually just two screws," says Hanks. "Cars are a little trickier. They have all the upholstery and stuff."

The New Orleans DSA says they hope to do more brake light events in the future.

"Something like this is very simple," Hanks points out. "If you want to get involved, you can just come out. You unscrew a couple of taillights. Change a light bulb. And, it just makes you feel better--makes you feel like you actually did something to help people."