Law Enforcement: The Understanding

Jan 04, 2015 View Comments by

untitled (79 of 231)Several friends of mine were touring in a relatively remote section of a northern state, trying to make some time by tossing the concept of speed limits aside. Rolling along at around ninety-five mph, they expected the worst when a state trooper who was tucked off of the side of the road pulled them over. To their surprise, the trooper asked them a few general questions about where they were heading and told them to please be careful, as there was an accident ahead. They were not lectured about their speed or ticketed, simply made aware of a potential hazard.

While this is probably an extreme example due the speeds involved, it illustrates what I believe to be an unspoken understanding that often exists between riders and law enforcement officers. The understanding is this: in situations where the focus is on safety and not generation of revenue, leniency is sometimes granted to riders who are responsibly enjoying some of the performance that their machines are capable of. By responsible enjoyment I am referring to experienced motorcyclists riding comfortably within their limits while wearing proper protective gear being allowed to have some fun on sparsely traveled roads—so long as they do not pose a risk to, or offend, others on the same roads.

My point is this: speed limits are, of course, legally enforceable in just about any situation, and I am not condoning speeding or suggesting that one can speed without regard to potential consequences. I am, however, acknowledging that there is often some give-and-take with enforcement of speed-related offenses, and that the particular section of road and several other variables often has an impact on the outcome if one draws the attention of a vehicle with festive lighting on the roof.

My personal rules are as follows: I closely follow posted limits or ride with the general flow of traffic in towns, I slow as an approaching car nears even when I’m riding aggressively on a nice stretch of road, and I don’t hit speeds that could be viewed as excessive on public roads. In short, I enjoy my hobby in a manner that focuses on my own safety as well as that of others sharing the road, and I don’t ride in a manner that draws attention to myself. In return, based on nearly forty years of experience riding on public roads, I feel that I have been allowed to fully savor the sport of motorcycling without undue concern about citations for violating traffic regulations.

Perhaps I ride more conservatively than I realize, or maybe I live in an area where speed-related law enforcement is lax on the roads where I ride, perhaps I’ve been lucky, or could it be there actually is an unwritten understanding that is the basis of this article. In any case, it’s worth exploring. It would be interesting to hear some comments from other riders and possibly some law-enforcement officers about whether or not “The Understanding” really exists, and what behavior law enforcement officers like to see from motorcyclists. After all, it boils down to the fact that many of us simply want to hop on our bikes, have some responsible fun that may involve a somewhat liberal interpretation of speed limits, and return home safely with no points on our license. And yes, I know that speeding is speeding, period, in legal terms. What I’m talking about is a mature, real-world conversation about whether or not sport-oriented riders can enjoy a portion of their bike’s performance potential without resorting to track day expenses and inconvenience.


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