It should come as no surprise to anyone who has dealt with law enforcement in any capacity that not all officers are the same and their actions and the way they treat people are not uniform. There are many variables that could influence how your interaction with a police officer goes, or whether you have an interaction with one at all.
Since there are no hard-and-fast rules or official how-to guide for dealing with law enforcement as a rider, sometimes all you can do is turn to anecdotal advice and a bit of common sense.
According to a Police Officer and Rider
A rider and police officer posted on a motorcycle forum to explain some of the reasons why he, personally, might pull over a fellow rider. Whether or not his thinking is consistent among all police officers is impossible to say, but it may provide some helpful guidance to riders who have recently been pulled over and are wondering why, and to those who want to avoid getting pulled over in the future.
- Anything he’d pull a car over for he’d also pull a motorcyclist over for – speeding, running red lights, illegal lane changes, etc.
- He had pulled over riders for doing wheelies on city streets to offer warnings but said he had never actually written a ticket for a rider lofting a tire. (There are definitely plenty of officers who will and have written tickets for this)
- He compared riding helmetless to wearing a sign that reads “pull me over.” (This would not apply if you are in one of the 32 states that allow adult riders to choose whether or not to wear a helmet)
- He regularly ran plates on motorcyclists to check to see if the person to whom the plate was registered had the proper endorsements on their license (and to check for warrants…). This seemed to be a pet peeve of his. Maybe a result of being both a rider and law enforcement.
- Illegal modifications (he shared an anecdote about a Suzuki track bike with a headlight duct-taped to the front and a plate registered to a Kawasaki).
In a later reply to a question regarding sport bike riders he said that, in his experience, they tend to ride more aggressively than cruiser or touring bike riders, suggesting they do get more attention from law enforcement.
The officer also said he personally tends to be more lenient of moving violations if the rider isn’t being “reckless” or committing an infraction in traffic around other people. He’d be more likely to pull over a guy “doing a big burnout in traffic on a crowded street,” implying he might let it slide were the streets empty. However this is by no means an endorsement for doing burnouts on public streets.
What’s the Concern With Inexperienced Law Enforcement?
The officer answering the questions on the forum had been riding for nearly 30 years and had been in law enforcement for half that time – what about a police officer who has never ridden and has only been on the job for a handful of years?
It’s hard to say for sure, but their perspective may be harsher. Someone who doesn’t ride or has a negative view of riders in general may not let little things slide. They may look for excuses to pull riders over – which is why it’s important to frequently check your bike to make sure all your lights are working, your plates are clearly visible, etc., so you don’t give the police an excuse to pull you over.
Precinct or agency policy could also affect how frequently you’re pulled over. If there’s been a rash of complaints or accidents involving sport bike street racing, or cruisers riding through neighborhoods with loud pipes, the police may well be more likely to make traffic stops for even minor violations.
“Outrunning” Usually Doesn’t Work and Endangers You and Others
Some riders in congested traffic and those in places with “no-pursuit” policies may think they can easily get away scot-free since it’s too difficult and dangerous for police to chase them. Those types of evasive actions pose significant dangers to the riders and their passengers, especially since it’s impossible to predict the actions of unsuspecting car and truck drivers on the road around you.
Secondly, if your bike is registered to your home address or somewhere else you can be found, police can find you – and likely will. They’re also likely to radio out your description and plate number, putting all other law enforcement on the lookout.
Keep Your Documents Handy
Have your license and registration either on you or in a place that is easily accessible. If you are pulled over you don’t want to be standing on the side of the road emptying your saddlebag because your registration is at the bottom, under your cold weather gear and tool bag.
And try to be polite and courteous. It doesn’t cost you anything and it could prevent you from rubbing law enforcement the wrong way and getting a citation instead of a verbal warning.
If you are pulled over by the police be polite and courteous. No one wins an argument during a traffic stop, and you may accidentally say something incriminating. Being polite doesn’t cost you anything and it could and it could mean the difference between a warning and a day off from work to go to court.
If you are ever injured in a motorcycle accident in Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina or South Carolina, the Motorcycle Law Group is here for you. Call us at 855-LAW-RIDERS for a free case evaluation.