Did you know an unpaid traffic ticket can escalate to time in jail? 

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s happening over and over again for the most vulnerable – our poor drivers who make a decision to pay their rent, or feed their kids or meet another essential need, over paying a ticket, renewing their tag or paying their insurance.  

An unpaid traffic ticket, turns into a warrant and a suspended license and if the person is caught enough times, the result could be serving a mandatory term in jail.  

The Kansas City Community Bail Fund estimates that tens of thousands of individuals are driving illegally in the metro every day due to an inability to pay the associated costs of driving. Earlier this month, they debuted Project Greenlight to help drivers get back on the road legally. 

Project Greenlight is the country’s first program of its kind and is an outgrowth of the Kansas City Community Bail Fund. The program does not outright pay for tickets but provides funds to renew tags, reinstate or renew driver’s licenses, and even helps with minor car repairs like replacing blinkers and bulbs. Project Greenlight can also pay insurance premiums and overdue registration fees on a vehicle bought for less than $20,000. 

“The goal is to reduce illegal driving, reduce arrests, and increase stability in the lives of Jackson and Wyandotte County residents, ” says KC Bail Fund executive director Chloe Cooper. 

Last year alone, the Kansas City, Missouri municipal court saw 2,204 tickets for driving with a suspended license and 4,481 driving without insurance charges, according to KCUR. This isn’t just a Kansas City problem.  A University of Michigan study estimated in 2021 that nearly 11 million people in the U.S. have suspended driver’s licenses simply due to an inability to pay a fee or fine. 

The overwhelming majority of suspensions stemmed from a failure to pay a fine and disproportionately affected lower-income Black and Hispanic communities. A 2020 study by the National Library of Medicine concludes that the suspension of licenses for non-driving offenses does not address traffic safety. 

“This is another form of economic and racial injustice that tries to stop Black and Brown people from advancing,” says Cooper. 

In its first week, Project Greenlight has seen nearly 500 applications for assistance, which are reviewed in the order they are received. Cooper says that she knew the program would be popular because the need is so great. 

To qualify for funding, the applicant must be a Jackson or Wyandotte County resident without a DUI or reckless driving charge on their record and meet certain income restrictions or receive government assistance like TANF, WIC, SNAP, Section 8, SSI/SSDI, or Medicaid. 

Applications are available on the KC Bail Fund’s website: KCBail.Fund

The KC Bail Fund is also planning free workshops led by lawyers to help residents navigate the steps needed to reinstate suspended driver’s licenses. The group is also seeking volunteers, donations, and pro bono attorneys to help greater numbers of applicants legally back on the road. 

Community Organizations Assist With Bail Funds 

KC Bail Fund, the parent company of Project Greenlight, was founded in 2019 by social workers Chloe Cooper and Lauren Worley, who began a GoFundMe to help raise the bail money to get one of their clients released from jail until her trial.  

After the tragic murder of George Floyd in May 2020 activists across the country began donating to bail funds to help free protestors from jail.  KCCBF grew rapidly with support from these activists and now pays bail for an average of three clients per month. To apply for assistance, go online to:  https://kcbail.fund/apply/ 

Another Kansas Bail fund Operation Liberation also helps individuals meet their bail obligation so that they can be released from jail until their trial.  They can be contacted online at http://bit.ly/3mSpEe4, by phone or text @ 816.533.5970 or by email @