In December 2008, the Registry of Motor Vehicles stopped mailing license renewal reminders to drivers, saving an estimated $800,000 a year. In October 2009, the Registry began offering an online notification service. It costs nothing.
Michael Henry tries to keep up with his car inspections and repairs. Commuting from Quincy to his job as a special-education teacher in Plymouth requires daily use of his car.
But ask Henry about his driver’s license and he can’t recall when it expires.
“I don’t think it’s expired,” he said Wednesday while waiting for the inbound train at Quincy Center, “but without looking at it, I’m not 100 percent sure.”
In December 2008, the Registry of Motor Vehicles stopped sending renewal reminders to drivers in the mail as a cost-saving measure. In October 2009, the Registry began offering an online notification service.
In between, there was a slight increase in the number of people ticketed for driving without a license, driving with an expired license, driving with the wrong class of driver’s license and violating a license restriction, according to Registry data.
Between Dec. 1, 2007, and Nov. 30, 2008, 27,828 people around the state were ticketed. Between Dec. 1, 2008, and Nov. 30, 2009, when reminders were not being sent, 29,289 people were ticketed, a 5 percent increase.
According to Registry data, renewal rates for driver’s licenses dipped in the first two months after the Registry stopped mailing renewal notices. In December 2008, about 71 percent of residents with licenses set to expire renewed them. In June of last year, the figure was 94 percent.
“The average renewal rate seems to be around 85 percent,” Registry spokeswoman Ann Dufresne said. “Most of the time we are at that or above it.”
Halting the mail reminder system enabled the Registry to save $800,000 a year, Dufresne said. The online reminder service costs nothing.
There are 4.6 million licensed drivers in Massachusetts, and 1.4 million new licenses are issued each year, Dufresne said.
About 50,000 people had signed up for the electronic reminder service as of Wednesday.
Dufresne said the Registry has tried to get the word out through social media, such as the agency’s Twitter account.
“We regularly tweet about it,” she said of the new reminder system. “Short of paying for ads, we have taken advantage of every free advertising opportunity.”
Still, some residents believe that mailing the renewal reminders is a public service that the Registry should be providing, regardless of budget constraints.
Henry, the Plymouth teacher from Quincy, said he was unaware of any changes at the Registry, and he joked that he would “probably be the last to know if (his) license was expired.”
“If I have to pay taxes and pass car inspections to drive my car, it’s their responsibility to let me know if it’s going to expire,” he said.
Kaylee McGrath of Hingham holds the opposite view.
“If people want to be reminded, they should sign up for the electronic reminders,” she said Wednesday while waiting for the bus at Quincy Center. “It’s not the Registry’s responsibility; it says when it expires on their license.”
Bill Goggin said he believes the state handled the cost-cutting change the wrong way.
“It’s the state’s job to remind people,” he said. “I think they should have done this new system over a year or two – letting people opt out of mailed reminders and sign up for electronic reminders. Like the digital TV switch; it lets people get used to the idea and make the change.”
Goggin said he has heard of the online reminder service, but just never remembered to sign up. He pulled out his iPhone and said, “Now it’s on my to-do list!”
To receive an electronic reminder, a driver must sign up at least 45 days before his or her license is to expire. One reminder will be issued, about 30 days before the expiration date.
The Patriot Ledger