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Front overheads OFF during traffic stop? Why?

Discussion in 'Cop Talk' started by OXCOPS, Sep 7, 2011.



    Dec 31, 2000
    Here in AZ, it seems to be standard for DPS (and other local agencies) to turn off the front of the overheads once they have a vehicle stopped. I don't get why. I've seen it at all hours of the day and night.

    Back in my time, in another state, we were trained to turn on anything that flashed, blinked and spun.....and leave them on for the duration of the stop. The only time we would kill the forward facing overheads is when giving field sobriety tests.

    Anyone know? Sam or others in AZ?
  2. jpa

    jpa CLM

    May 28, 2001
    Las Vegas NV
    Nevada Highway Patrol does that too. I was taught the same thing you were. Anything to disorient and/or blind the subject. My guess is that it also blinds and/or disorients the officer to an extent and they don't want you walking into traffic on a dark desert road.

  3. Sgt127


    Nov 5, 2002
    I notice Dallas has thier light bars set for steady burn, one red and one blue to the front on a stop. I'm beginning to see the logic and, have adressed it with our folks. Light bars have gotten stupid bright. I think they are as distracting for the Officer as they are for the violator.

    Our new cars have corner strobes and LED lighbars. When everything is going, particulalry when there are two or three cars at night, you can barely see right in front of you, much less someone approaching on foot or in a car from the side or behind.

    I was driving home the other night and came upon a major. Three or more squads, two ambulances and two or three fire trucks. Everything had every LED light cranked up. I had to come to a complete stop and stare, for several seconds, to find the cop, wearing a reflective vest, with a flashlight trying to give directions. Even his vest was simply reflecting the red and blue of the LED lights. It was like looking at fireworks and trying to pick out one individual point.


    Dec 31, 2000
    I can see the issues at night. If that is the case, why during the day? Learn one way and stick to it maybe?
  5. GunFighter45ACP


    Jun 11, 2005
    D/FW, TX
    Some of the lightbars I've seen can run red/blue/strobe takedowns from the rear, while the front ones bathe the suspect vehicle & surrounding area in a bright, spotlight setup. Obviously, this is good for night time stops. Perhaps they run the same setup during the day except nix the front spotlights.
  6. DaBigBR

    DaBigBR No Infidels!

    Oct 28, 2005
    Circling the wagons.
    The damn things are too bright and even if they weren't, the flash patterns are disorienting enough by themselves. Our bars have a slow alternating red blue (one LED module on each side) to the front in position "1" on the three position switch. I almost always use that mode after making a stop. I also think some of the very intense flashing lights can lead to target fixation.

    I find at night that the four pack of LED takedown lights and the spotlight are plenty to prevent a person from seeing back to my car.
  7. CAcop


    Jul 21, 2002
    Are the rear lights off too? CHP will kill everything to the rear in the daytime and just use forward facing reds they have on a spotlight because stupid people home in on the lights.
  8. Gangrel


    Oct 12, 2007
    Also: doing SFSTs
  9. AZLawDawg

    AZLawDawg Oh, Oh, Oh!!

    Sep 10, 2005
    Phoenix Metro
    For a couple of reasons, it's so we don't get illuminated by the forward facing rotator lights if we're stopped back there writing a cite in the dark and also, like posted above, if we have to conduct SFST's, the front flashers are already off, so that's one less thing we have to do if we're gonna get them out of the car.
    In the daytime, aside from the SFST reason, the only reason I can think of is, it's trained into you to turn off the forward facing overheads, so day or night, they get shut off - plus, alot of the dayshift Patrolmen came from working graves or swings, where they were used to shutting 'em off at night all the time.
  10. AZLawDawg

    AZLawDawg Oh, Oh, Oh!!

    Sep 10, 2005
    Phoenix Metro
    At night, the rear lights are always going. I can go either way with that one. Drunks hone in on them, but it's easier to find you if the SHTF and so on, and on.
  11. merlynusn


    Nov 16, 2007
    I've definitely found the lights are way too bright. I was at a homicide and I got a headache from all the LEDs going constantly. Obviously the homicide detectives did too because they told all the cars there (even the ones blocking the streets) to kill their overhead lights.

    We don't turn off the front lights ever, except maybe a real dark road at night doing SFSTs.
  12. OXCOPS


    Dec 31, 2000
    Rear lights are always on.
  13. jpa

    jpa CLM

    May 28, 2001
    Las Vegas NV
    OK, I just asked one of the guys at work who used to be an academy instructor for NV DPS. He said they aren't trained to do it but a lot of guys choose to do it to 1) keep from being backlit by their own lights when crossing over for passenger side approaches or 2) the lights are too blinding/distracting to them too.

    He also said they're trained to shut off the front lights when doing HGN or other sobriety tests.
  14. collim1

    collim1 Shower Time!

    Mar 14, 2005
    I only turn my forward lights off during SFST's. Stepping in between your car and the suspect's for a passenger side approach is a big no no, always. My lightbar has a low power setting that I use at night time.
  15. Eagle1

    Eagle1 Oh glockaholic!

    Jan 14, 2002
    Also this is good practice so that oncoming traffic is not blinded and/or the looky loos will not stop abruptly to see what is going on. I have had alot of people going the opposite direction stopping to see what is going on and this has eleviated this somewhat.
  16. Sam Spade

    Sam Spade Staff Member Lifetime Member

    May 4, 2003
    Rotating lights or strobes create shadows that are absolute bears to deal with in a shooting, or in identifying clues just prior to a shooting. Take-downs, spotlights and highbeams give more than enough light for the "wall of light" and a disadvantage to the occupants of the stopped car.

    Personally, I also find that turning the lights down reduces the anxiety level for the occupants on an unknown risk stop. That has advantages when you've stopped either a taxpayer or a dirtbag.

    The FST (especially HGN) issue has already been mentioned.
  17. herose


    Jun 13, 2006
    I passed a SO patrol car on my way to headquarters one night last month that had so many lights strobing and blinking and flashing that I thought I was going to have an epileptic fit right there on the spot.
  18. OLY-M4gery


    Nov 7, 2001
    Southern WI
    My assigned car, a marked slicktop

    Mode 1 = all the rear and side lights
    Mode 2 = all the rear, side, and forward lights
    Mode 3 = all rear, side, and forward lights, flashing healights and opticom strobe.

    It's set up like that, for SFST, and those times you want to create a "traffic break" w/o slowing traffic in front of the police car. Also most of the time, on divided highways, or wider roads, not having the forward lights on cuts down the distraction, both due to the lights and noseyness, for oncoming traffic.
  19. PuroMexicano

    PuroMexicano VIVA MEXICO !!!

    Jan 28, 2004
    Monterrey, Mexico
    Here in San Pedro (A municipality of Monterrey), front, side, back, bumper, grill, strobes, you-name-it, are ALWAYS on, day or night, patroling or at a stop.

    I've told the chief quite a few times that at night it only "warns" the BG's that the cops are coming.
    His answer is always the same: ACCIDENT PREVENTION.
    He is right on that, since given the instruction, traffic accidents at night have been reduced a lot because speeders slow down when they see the lights down the road.
    But, man, do they disorient the coppers in the cruisers, :rofl:
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2011
  20. pal2511


    Sep 15, 2002
    We have pretty much everything mode or just the rear. I wish we had a dim mode or low power. Sometimes if we are real lucky I hit the switch to switch my radio from police to the sheriff's departments frequency and my overhead lights come on. It's real fun driving with your lights on at the normal speed limit with people giving you dirty looks and wondering why they are pulling over. I thought they just had places to go the first time it happened :)