By Lisa Hagen

Statehouse Bureau

BOSTON -- If you've been thinking the Registry of Motor Vehicles doesn't care anymore, good news is on the way. After announcing a policy change last week, the Registry has begun mailing out birthday postcards to remind drivers when they need to renew their licenses.

"After some time, the public missed them," said Rachel Kaprielian, the state's registrar of Motor Vehicles. "A number of people felt that without the reminder they found themselves not renewing their licenses on time."

The Registry stopped mailing out the reminders by first-class mail five years ago. Now, Kaprielian said the postcards are a cheaper approach that will include a happy-birthday message and an advertisement.

Reaction among people outside an RMV office in Lowell was mostly positive, though Steven Dembow, of Merrimack, N.H., said adults who already pay their bills should be responsible enough to remember on their own.

"For some people it might be a good idea, but for the rest of us adults I think we should be responsible enough to know when our license is expired," Dembow said. "We have to make our bill payments on time."

Kaprielian said the RMV will send out about 90,000 postcards monthly at an estimated cost around $200,000 to $300,000 a year. She said the reminders of five years ago used to cost almost $1 million a year.

The postcards will specify if drivers are eligible to renew online or if they need to go into an RMV branch office to take a new license picture. Drivers must update their license photos every 10 years.

Area state senators and representatives are happy to see the revival of these notifications, noting many people can forget to renew their licenses.

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan, D-Leominster, agrees that transitioning to electronic notifications is a possibility for the future.

"Email is always a good option to utilize as long as someone is keeping the database up to date," Flanagan said. "People change email addresses, so if this is something to consider, then someone would need to be there to actively keep it up to date."

State Rep. Stephen DiNatale, D-Fitchburg, said the reminders are long overdue and a service that the RMV should provide drivers regardless of the costs.

"It is simply the cost of doing business and this is a business," DiNatale said. "I think it's the least we should be doing for drivers of Massachusetts."

Kaprielian said the new notifications are less expensive than the old system due to the advertisements on the reminders and that postcards are cheaper to mail.

"We pride ourselves on responding to customers and it was a very common response," she said. "We looked at the budget and thought of a way to do it considerably cheaper and we pulled it off."