Rhode Island joins Maine to deregister JDM cars, and its logic is questionable

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JDM cars are subject to additional attacks in New England. It’s been a few months since we last reported on the Delica debacle in Maine, and now Rhode Island is taking a similar approach for imported Japanese cars.

Initially brought to light by the Automotive Revival podcast, and detailed in a report by The reader, Rhode Island is revoking the registration of kei cars that were previously legally imported and registered in the state. The cars in question are all vehicles that have been imported under the Federal 25 Year Rule which allows you to legally register and drive cars from countries outside of the United States as long as they are at least 25 years old. . Examples of cars written off in Rhode Island include the Honda Acty, the Daihatsu Mira TR-XX Avanzato, the Daihatsu Hijet, and the Suzuki Carry. The owners of these vehicles say they have received letters informing them that their car’s registrations have been suspended.

We received the same Rhode Island DMV memo as The reader. It is as follows:

“Please note that registration of mini-trucks, mini-vans and Kei cars is currently prohibited in the state of Rhode Island.

“Do not process registration transactions for these types of vehicles. Refer the client to the Enforcement Office or the Safety and Emissions Control Office for details.

“Mini-trucks, microvans and Kei Cars are miniature motor vehicles manufactured to meet the requirements of the Japanese classification of keijidosha vehicles. Although legal in Japan, keijidosha standards differ significantly from North American federal motor vehicle safety standards applicable to comparable vehicles.

“These vehicles were not designed to be used on North American roads. Allowing operation would introduce into the conventional traffic mix vehicles of questionable stability and collision protection, which present a known increased accident risk and potential danger to the vehicle operator and others. vehicles on the same roads.

“Attached to this memo you will find some examples to help recognize these vehicles at check-in. “

The memo then shows examples of kei cars in photo form so officers can identify these cars and not register them. It was sent by the head of security and emissions control of the DMV, the head of enforcement and the deputy head of enforcement.

Of course, you are probably wondering why this is happening at this point. This is a question that we have been trying to answer for a few months now. And finally, after we have appealed and made a request for access to public documents in the state of Rhode Island, we have some answers.

The state’s official case is presented at a vehicle registration hearing for a person who attempted to register a 1994 Honda V-HH4 van on March 21 of this year. In it, the Rhode Island DMV explains why kei vehicles should not be allowed.

Two laws are cited here. The first is Rhode Island General Law 31-3-5, which states that “the Motor Vehicle Division must refuse registration or any transfer of registration on any of the following grounds… (2) That the vehicle is mechanically unfit or dangerous to operate on highways.

Then we have RIGL 31-38-1. This states: “No person shall retail, drive or move on a highway a motor vehicle, a trailer, a semi-trailer or a pole trailer or any combination thereof, unless the equipment is in good working order and is adjusted as required in this title, and the vehicle is in a sufficiently safe mechanical condition not to endanger the driver or another occupant or any person on the road.

The DMV argues that kei vehicles violate these rules and therefore should not be allowed on Rhode Island roads. But let’s dig a little deeper into the reasoning here. In the “Facts of the Case” section, the DMV states that the 1995 Honda V-HH4 has a top speed of around 80 mph. He also points out that the vehicle does not meet federal safety standards, “and given the model’s smaller design and engine, it may be unsafe to operate on certain RI roads.”

At the same time, the state Is recognize that due to the age of the vehicle, it is exempt from EPA emissions standards and federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, Rhode Island follows this by saying it should instead rely on best practice recommendations put forward by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). For those who are not familiar, AAMVA is a non-governmental educational association that aims to help law enforcement develop programs and models for safe roads. They are not part of the government, but they do make suggestions to the government, such as their document “Best Practices for Registration and Titling of Mini Trucks”.

In this “best practice” document, AAMVA sets out a strongly worded case as to why mini-trucks should not be allowed on US roads. He cites safety as the main reason, calling mini-trucks “junk from another country” and suggests that jurisdictions do not allow or register mini-trucks for use here. The only exception would be for mini-trucks that carry the FMVSS and CMVSS certification labels (US and Canadian safety standards). Of course, none of these JDM vehicles carry these labels.

We will take this opportunity to point out that the state’s argument here against kei cars can be applied to countless numbers of classic cars. Plus, if Rhode Island is so safety-conscious, riding a motorcycle or three-wheeler in the open is certainly much more dangerous than a closed kei car. It’s a slippery slope.

The owner of the Honda van argued that the age of the vehicle legally allows it to be exempt from EPA and safety standards, which is actually correct. Meanwhile, the state argues that “driving such a vehicle on the roads poses a danger to occupants and the traveling public and registration of such a vehicle should not be allowed.”

There is still going back and forth between the owner of the van and the state. The owner claims that the state has no rules / regulations, interpretive rules or policy statements regarding mini-trucks, and AAMVA’s designation as a non-governmental organization means that its “best practices” cannot be properly taken into account in this case. The state then responds by stating that “it is for the states under their policing authority to determine how the operation / registration of these vehicles should or should not be recorded in the name of health, safety and security. the well-being of their citizens ”. In other words: We can do what we want.

So this Honda V-HH4 was not allowed to be registered in Rhode Island. Even though the state does not have any rules or regulations explicitly prohibiting the registration of kei cars, it uses these two original rules (RIGL 31-3-5 and RIGL 31-38-1) as justification for blocking JDM cars for public safety reasons. Homeowners have remedies with the ability to appeal the decision to a district court, but it’s unclear how that might end.

We will take this opportunity to point out that the state’s argument here against kei cars can be applied to countless numbers of classic cars. There are so much old cars registered on the road today that wouldn’t even come close to safety and emissions regulations. Plus, if the state of Rhode Island is so concerned about the safety of its motorists, riding a motorcycle or three-wheeler in the open is certainly much more dangerous than a closed kei car. Following Rhode Island’s reasoning creates a slippery slope of cars that should also be pulled off the road. While we doubt the state is starting to force classic muscle cars and early automobiles such as the Ford Model T and many others, the case against them is no different from that against imported JDM vehicles. So why does the state pick and choose? These kei cars introduced under the 25-year rule are just another form of the classic car – people don’t usually import Honda Acty cars to drive them on a daily basis.

Watch out for this kind of activity, just in case it continues to spread to the rest of New England. You can give us a tip here if you notice that your DMV takes a similar approach.

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