DUI Stops for Motors, Part 2

March 11, 2016

In part one, we talked about stopping our errant driver and directing them to a predetermined location. By having predetermined locations, then successfully directing violators to those locations, you will have with the best opportunity to conduct safe and effective DUI investigations.

Considerations for the Stop

Your predetermined locations should be a flat and level surface, away from the dangers of passing traffic, but easily seen and accessible for responding units and tow vehicles. Share your predetermined locations with your partners so they are readily aware of where you normally conduct your DUI investigations. To avoid falling into a predictable routine, you may have several of these locations picked out along your beat.

Once the errant driver is stopped you make your contact. Hopefully your errant driver has stopped in the location you have chosen, where you and the errant driver are safely away from the flow of traffic.

Position your motorcycle behind, or along the right side, of the errant vehicle. Alight from your motorcycle on the high side, opposite of the side stand. That should allow to keep your eyes on the errant vehicle and put your motorcycle between you and the vehicle. This will allow you to use your motorcycle for cover or concealment if necessary.

On or off the roadway, I am a fan of using the right-side approach to contact an errant driver. But right or left, you need to contact the driver.

When objective signs of impairment are present, you’ll need to get the errant driver out and conduct a DUI investigation. Usually, you will want to separate the driver from any passengers in the vehicle. If you have a partner, they can effectively assist with this task. Direct the driver to a location you choose to conduct your investigation. You can bring the driver back to your motorcycle to allow you quick access to any equipment you may need. This usually also effectively separates the errant driver from their vehicle.

If it’s still daylight, you have lots of options for making the contact and conducting your investigation. If it’s dark, you have some decisions to make. In either event, here are some things to consider while making the initial contact and throughout your investigation.

Daylight stop: During daylight, it’s fairly easy to make objective observations to determine the need for a DUI investigation. The investigation can be conducted alongside or in front of your motorcycle.

Responding units and support services should also have no problem seeing you and providing you with whatever assistance is needed. Without the need for additional lighting, the motorcycle should be turned off to avoid overheating and to preserve the battery.

Darkness stop: Darkness provides unique challenges for the motorcycle officer. Selecting predetermined locations for your stops with adequate lighting is important. Then successfully directing violators to these locations is your best option. Motorcycle headlights and a flashlight should provide enough light for you to make your contact with the errant driver and discern any initial objective symptoms of impairment. If any are noted, you can conduct your investigation using the ambient light of the location.

Use the lighting equipment on your motorcycle sparingly. The headlight, although effective, should not be used for long. Most motorcycles require the key to remain in the “run” position for the headlight to remain illuminated. If you leave the motorcycle engine idling, it will quickly heat up. Even motorcycles with liquid cooled engines and supplemental cooling fans will overheat in a short period of time.

If you use the engine kill switch, and leave the ignition on, there are up to three ECUs that will also remain operational, using battery power. Additionally, the Light Control Units, electronic processing units that flash the LEDs and other lights on the motorcycle, will continue to use battery power.

Most motorcycles are configured to allow the use of emergency lights and law enforcement equipment with the ignition off. Take-down lights are an effective alternative to the motorcycle’s headlight and will normally work with the ignition off.  LED take-down lights, which are not run through a Light Control Unit, can provide sufficient lighting for a DUI investigation and will use the least amount of battery power. However, the best-case scenario is to use available lighting from overhead lights and your flashlight, saving your motorcycle battery.

Depending on where your stop is made, you may need to leave your motorcycle’s rear ambers, or other emergency lights, activated so that responding units and support services can quickly find you.

Modern police motorcycles with properly working charging systems and good batteries will be able to provide sufficient power to conduct a traffic stop and restart the engine. However, after multiple stops the battery may be worn down, and without sufficient time to fully recharge the battery between stops will begin to lose storage capacity.  Taking a few steps to preserve the battery and avoid overheating the engine will ensure your ability to effectively patrol throughout your shift.


Remember, although you are expecting to find an impaired, sleepy or distracted driver, any traffic stop can turn deadly. Always be prepared, keep your dominant hand free during your contact and watch the violator’s hands.  If your stop is on a roadway shoulder or turnout, keep an eye on traffic.  Remember the concepts of contact and cover, and communicate with your partner.

Bottom line: Reducing DUI related incidents is a goal for most law enforcement agencies, and keeping law enforcement officers safe is paramount in reaching that goal.

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