Can Cops Chase Motorcycles?
Police chasing fleeing motorcyclists has long been a controversial issue. High-speed motorcycle chases pose serious risks to the motorcyclist, police, and general public. However, police argue they have valid reasons to pursue bikers in some cases. The laws and policies guiding police motorcycle pursuits vary significantly by jurisdiction. Overall, attitudes towards cop chases seem to be shifting towards restricting or banning pursuits in many areas due to the dangers involved.
Reasons Police May Chase Motorcycles
Police provide several justifications for engaging in high-speed pursuit of motorcyclists:
Excessive speeding is illegal and can get someone killed. Police contend they cannot simply allow motorcyclists to speed unchecked, endangering themselves and the public.
Similarly, police point out that reckless driving, including wheelies, ignore traffic signals, and weaving dangerously through traffic cannot go unchecked. They argue pursuits aim to end the reckless behavior before a crash occurs.
In some cases, an officer may suspect the motorcyclist is engaged in or fleeing from some other crime and give chase with intent to apprehend the biker.
Risks of Police Chases
However, statistics reveal police pursuits of fleeing motorcycles frequently end in tragedy and liability issues:
Danger to Motorcyclist
High-speed motorcycle chases are extremely dangerous for the motorcyclist, who lacks the protection of an enclosed vehicle. Loss of control crashes are not uncommon, often resulting in serious injury or death.
Danger to Public
In addition, motorcycle chases put the general public at risk. The biker may crash into a innocent motorist. And police are less able to protect public safety while engaged in a high-speed chase.
Police departments can face huge liability and lawsuits if an innocent third party is injured or killed due to a high-speed pursuit, even if the actual collision is caused by the fleeing motorcyclist rather than the chasing police vehicle.
Laws and Policies on Police Chases
Laws and department policies guiding police pursuits of motorcycles vary significantly:
Local Laws and Policies
Many jurisdictions have passed laws or implemented policies severely restricting or completely banning motorcycle chases except in extreme circumstances. However, other areas still grant police wide discretion to engage in high-speed pursuits.
Courts have also weighed in on the constitutionality of certain pursuit practices. Police must have reasonable suspicion of a crime to initiate a stop. Courts have found officers liable for negligently conducting chases resulting in injury or death.
Best Practices for Motorcyclists
Given the risks, motorcyclists should take appropriate precautions:
Pull Over When Signaled
If an officer initiates a traffic stop, the wisest choice is to pull over in a safe location as soon as possible. Fleeing generally only makes the situation much worse.
Drive Safely and Legally
Riders should always obey traffic laws and drive responsibly. Even minor speeding or reckless driving may prompt police intervention. Safe riding reduces the likelihood of being pulled over in the first place.
Know Your Rights
Educate yourself on relevant laws and policies in your area related to police pursuits. Knowing your rights helps you make informed decisions in any police encounter.
Changing Attitudes Towards Chases
In light of the risks posed by motorcycle pursuits, attitudes and policies seem to be evolving:
Implementing New Policies
Many police departments are proactively changing their own internal policies to restrict officers from engaging in motorcycle chases. Some forbid pursuits outright except in extreme cases.
Push for Legislative Reform
Concerned motorcyclists rights groups and safety advocates are lobbying state legislatures to enact new laws limiting the circumstances when police can legally engage in high-speed pursuit of a motorcyclist. There seems to be growing public support for this legislative reform.
In summary, motorcycle pursuits are incredibly dangerous and frequently unnecessary. Police departments and legislatures going forward should consider banning virtually all pursuits as matter of public safety. Motorcyclists must make wise choices, but also deserve protection from overzealous police practices. Ongoing policy changes provide reason for optimism that cop motorcycle chases will become increasingly rare.
Police pursuits of fleeing motorcycles occur far too frequently and needlessly endanger motorcyclists and the general public. Thankfully, attitudes are shifting as the grave risks posed by motorcycle chases become impossible to ignore. Police departments and legislatures nationwide must continue reforming laws and implementing policies that restrict officers from engaging in dangerous high-speed pursuits of motorcyclists in all but the rarest cases. Riders have a responsibility to operate safely and legally, and should educate themselves on relevant laws and rights. With ongoing progress at both the policy and legislative levels, hopefully motorcycle vs cop chases will become a relic of the past.
- Are police allowed to chase motorcycles for any reason?
No, in many areas police are now severely restricted or banned entirely from engaging in high-speed pursuits of motorcycles due to the extreme risks involved. However, policies still vary greatly by jurisdiction.
- If a cop tries to pull over a motorcycle but they flee instead, will the cop chase them?
Potentially yes, some officers still may give chase though policies prohibiting pursuits are becoming more common. Fleeing police is extremely dangerous and will likely result in criminal charges if caught.
- Can police continue chasing a motorcycle that drives recklessly and violates traffic laws?
It depends on the department’s specific pursuit policy. Many jurisdictions forbid chases except in extreme cases. However, others still permit pursuits of reckless drivers. Know your local laws.
- Who is at fault if a fleeing motorcyclist crashes during a police chase?
The fleeing motorcyclist can share fault for fleeing and crashing. But courts often assign some liability to the police department for negligently conducting the pursuit that led to the crash.
- What should a motorcyclist do if a cop tries to pull them over?
Safely pull over in a suitable location as soon as possible. Stopping is the only wise option. Fleeing dramatically escalates the situation and risks. Comply with instructions and contest any issues later in court if needed.