If I am stopped by the police for speeding, what should I do?

Stop your vehicle as far out of the travel lane of traffic as possible. Stay in your vehicle and if during low light hours, please turn on your interior light. Good lighting assists good communication. Relax and remain in your vehicle. If you leave the vehicle, you subject yourself and the officer to danger.

Keep your hands in view at all times, preferable on the steering wheel. Wait for the officer to request your license and registration. Please do not remove your seat belt prior to the officer making contact with you.  Police officers are trained to ask for your identification first, then provide an explanation for the stop. Please give the officer a chance to explain. Providing your documents will speed the process. Remember, in most cases, the officer is in uniform, displaying a badge and name tag. You have the advantage of knowing who you are dealing with. Extend the courtesy by presenting the requested paperwork without an argument. It makes sense and it's the law.

If the officer writes you a citation, do not argue. If you think that the citation was wrongly issued, the proper procedure is to request a hearing through the district court. This information is provided on the back of the citation. Please read the back of the citation completely.

Who has to wear a seat belt?

Under MGL. Chapter 90 Section 13A, the operator and all passengers are required to wear seat belts. Failure to comply will result in a $25.00 fine.

If the operator is not belted, they will receive the citation. If a passenger is at least 12 years old but not yet 16, then the operator will be cited as they are responsible for all younger passengers. If a non-belted passenger is 16 years of age or older, then the passenger will be cited directly. The Bernardston Police Department has a Zero Tolerance Seat Belt Policy, meaning you will be fined for not properly wearing a seat belt.

Under this section, the officer cannot stop a vehicle based on the fact that an operator or passengers are not wearing a seat belt. There must be a separate reason for the initial stop.

What are the requirements for child restraints in a vehicle?

Under MGL. Chapter 90 Section 7AA :

Infants & small children, who are under 5 years old and weigh less than 40 lbs., must ride in a federally approved child passenger restraint. (Child seat)

Children, who are under 5 years old but weigh more than 40 lbs., must ride in a booster seat.

Children who are 5 years old or older, and who weigh more than 40 lbs., must ride with a seat belt. However, it is highly recommended that they use a booster seat.

Under this section an officer may stop a vehicle whose passengers may be in violation of this law. This is a primary stop and the officer needs no other reason for the stop.

If I've been involved in a motor vehicle accident, do I need to report it to the police?

If you are involved in any type of motor vehicle accident (no matter how minor) you must stop and identify yourself to the other driver(s) or property owner(s) involved. If the damage to the other vehicle(s) or property exceeds $1000, or if someone is injured (no matter how minor), or if one of the vehicles involved has fled the scene then you must report the accident.

Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 90, section 26, you have five business days to file an accident report. Your license can be suspended or revoked if you fail to submit an accident report within this time period.

Can the police provide assistance to open my car if I have locked the keys inside?

Yes. This is just one of the many unique services that the Bernardston Police Department provides. We are limited with certain newer vehicles, but please call us if you find yourself in this dilemma.

What should I do when I'm going on vacation?

* Contact the BERNARDSTON POLICE DARTMENT at 413-648-9208 to inform us of your
   vacation plans. Although we cannot guarantee regular checks of your property, filing
   contact information with us will help if a problem arises at your property during your  
   absence.
* Don't leave large amounts of cash or jewelry in your home. Consider use of a safe deposit
   box.
* Consider using a trusted friend or a relative as a house sitter while you're away.
* Check and lock all doors and windows.
* Make arrangements for pickup of newspaper and mail (consider stopping delivery).
* Have your lawn mowed or driveway plowed (depending season) on a regular schedule.
* Consider having a close neighbor park their car in your driveway and to be alert for any
    suspicious activity.
* Don't publicize your trip until after your return.

How do I avoid becoming a victim of a scam or identity theft?

There are several things you can do to avoid being the victim of a scam or identity theft:

* Never give anyone your personal information, especially if you do not know who they are. That includes providing or confirming your address, bank account, credit card numbers, phone numbers or date of birth.
* Do not write account numbers on the outside of payment envelopes.
* Destroy any records, canceled checks, receipts, deposit slips, etc. before throwing them away. If you have a shredder, use it. If not, tear the bills, receipts, etc. into tiny pieces and try to put them in different trash cans.
* Anytime you are asked to pay money to get a "free" gift you should refuse to pay the money. It is likely that the offer is fraudulent and even if you were to receive the gift it would be a cheap imitation item.
* Guard your Social Security number. Do not have it imprinted on checks. If it is requested by a business, ask if there is an alternate ID that can be used. If not, ask for an explanation why the number is needed. It should not be used for identification purposes.
* Check with the National Fraud Information Center on 1-800-876-7060. The NFIC provides lots of valuable resources about telephone, mail and online scams.
* Always use common sense. If you have a gut feeling that something is not legitimate, you are probably right.

What should I do if I suspect that I am a victim of an identity theft?

You should first contact your local police and make a report. You can then use that police report to request that the consumer credit reporting agencies block any information that you contend appears on your credit report as a result of an identity theft.

For more information, check out the Federal Trade Commission's website www.ftc.gov regarding  identity theft.

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