How the Police See Motorcyclists

Dec 02, 2014 View Comments by

How the Police See MotorcyclistsWhile recently trolling the endless depths of the Internet, I came across an interesting document. It’s the guidelines set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops on motorcyclists. The opening sentence of the document’s introduction reads like this, “Motorcycles are becoming a greater concern for law enforcement agencies.” Uh oh. I read on. “As the number of motorcycles increases, there is a perception among law enforcement officers that motorcycles may be less likely to stop upon request.” At this point I was ready to get offended by the obviously negative view of riders perpetuated by the NHTSA, but then I read on.

The report goes on to advise law enforcement officers on ways to keep riders safe when pulling them over, and many of them are quite conscientious. Things like ensuring the rider is well away from traffic and has firm ground to place a kickstand on as well as using the patrol vehicle to shield the bike are things that we would all appreciate should an officer find a need to stop us. As I continued to peruse the pages, I realized that it’s not fair to judge LEOs for their assumption that motorcyclists are more inclined to run when the blue lights turn on. The report cites the increased registration levels of supersport motorcycles that “can reach speeds of nearly 190 mph” leading me to conclude that, for the most part, the majority of law abiding motorcyclists are more or less invisible in the eyes of law enforcement. The ones they’re looking for ride high-powered motorcycles in a reckless and dangerous fashion, usually with a fake Mohawk glued to their helmet.

You and I, on our more sedate and practical motorcycles, wearing proper riding gear, and conforming to traffic laws, are very unlikely to draw attention to ourselves. My personal experience has been that I have a greater risk of getting pulled over for speeding 15 mph over the limit in my car than if I were going the same speed on my bike. Perhaps it’s the fact that every LEO I’ve personally known has been a motorcyclist too.

In a world that’s quick to jump to conclusions and point fingers, it’s nice to step back and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. I’m glad the NHTSA put out a report for the primary purpose of helping police officers keep motorcyclists safe, even those with little regard for the law or the safety of others.

What do you think? What’s been your experience with the police and motorcycles?

Click here to download the NHTSA document.


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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.