Rhode Island joins Maine in de-registering JDM cars, and its logic is dubious

JDM cars continue to be attacked in New England. It's been a few months since we reported on the Delica debacle in Maine, and now Rhode Island is taking a similar approach with imported Japanese cars.
Rhode Island was originally brought to light through the Revival Motoring podcast and further described in a report by The Drive. The cars in question are all vehicles 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 being deregistered in Rhode Island include the Honda Acty, Daihatsu Mira TR-XX Avanzato, Daihatsu Hijet, and Suzuki Carry. The owners of these vehicles claim to have received letters informing them that their car has been banned from being registered.
We received the same Rhode Island DMV memo as The Drive. It is as follows:
“Please note that mini trucks, microvans and kei cars are currently prohibited in the state of Rhode Island.
“Do not process registration transactions for these types of vehicles. For further details, refer the customer to the enforcement authority or the safety and emissions control office.
“Mini-trucks, microvans and kei cars are miniature motor vehicles that are manufactured according to the requirements of the Japanese Keijidosha vehicle classification. Although road legal in Japan, the Keijidosha standards differ significantly from the North American federal vehicle safety standards that apply to comparable vehicles.
“These vehicles were not designed for use on North American roads. The approval of the operation would introduce vehicles with questionable stability and crash protection into the conventional traffic mix, which represent a known increased crash risk and hazard potential for the vehicle driver as well as other vehicles on the same lane.
"A few examples are attached to this memo to help identify these vehicles during registration."
The memo also shows examples of kei cars in photo form so that agents can identify and not register these cars. It was sent by the DMV's head of security and emissions control, the head of enforcement, and the deputy head of enforcement.
Of course, you are probably wondering why this is happening at this point. We have been trying to answer this question for several months. Finally, after filing and filing an application for access to public records in the state of Rhode Island, we have some answers.
The official case of the state is brought in a vehicle registration hearing for an individual who attempted to register a 1994 Honda V-HH4 minivan on March 21 of this year. In it, the Rhode Island DMV sets out its reasons why kei vehicles should not be allowed.
Two laws are mentioned here. The first is Rhode Island General Law 31-3-5, which states, "The Automobile Division will refuse to approve or transfer approval for any of the following reasons ... (2) That the vehicle is mechanically unsuitable or unsafe, to be operated on the highways. "
Next we have RIGL 31-38-1. It states: “No person may retail, drive or move a motor vehicle, trailer, semi-trailer or mast trailer, or any combination thereof, unless the equipment is in good working order and adjusted in accordance with this title. and the vehicle is in such a safe mechanical condition that neither the driver nor other occupants or people on the motorway are endangered. "
The DMV argues that kei vehicles violate these rules and should therefore not be allowed on the streets of Rhode Island. 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 about 80 mph. It also advises that the vehicle does not meet federal safety standards, "and given the model's smaller design and engine, it can be dangerous to drive on some RI roads."
At the same time, the state recognizes that the vehicle is exempt from EPA emissions standards and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards due to its age. However, Rhode Island follows suit by arguing that it should work instead on recommending best practices from the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA). For Strangers, AAMVA is a non-governmental educational association that aims to help law enforcement agencies develop programs and models for safe roads. They are not part of the government, but they make suggestions to the government, such as their document "Best Practice Regarding Registration and Naming of Mini-Trucks".
In this "Best Practices" document, the AAMVA makes a strong argument for why mini-trucks should not be allowed on US roads. She cites safety as the primary reason, cites mini-trucks "another nation's dumped" and suggests that jurisdictions not allow or register mini-trucks for use here. The only exception would be mini trucks that have traditional FMVSS and CMVSS (US and Canadian safety standards) certification labels. Of course, none of these JDM vehicles have these labels.
We would like to take this opportunity to point out that the state argument against Kei Cars can apply to countless classic cars. And if Rhode Island is so concerned about safety, riding a motorcycle or an open-air tricycle is certainly far more dangerous than a closed kei car. It's a slippery slope.
The owner of the Honda van claimed that due to its age, the vehicle could be legally exempt from EPA and safety standards - that is factually correct. Meanwhile, the state argues that "the use of such a vehicle on the roads is dangerous to its occupants and passengers and that such vehicle should not be allowed to be registered".
There's more back and forth between the van owner and the state. The owner says the state has no rules / regulations, rules of interpretation or policy statements regarding mini trucks, and the designation of the AAMVA as a non-governmental organization means that their "best practices" in this case cannot rightly be considered. The state then replies that "It is up to the states under their police authority to determine how or not to register the operation / registration of such vehicles in the interests of the health, safety and welfare of their citizens." In other words, we can do what we want.
This Honda V-HH4 was not allowed to be registered in Rhode Island. Although the state doesn't have any rules or regulations specifically forbidding the registration of kei cars, it does use these two original rules (RIGL 31-3-5 and RIGL 31-38-1) as a justification to keep JDM cars off for the sake of it block public safety. Owners have the option to appeal the decision in a district court, but it is not certain how that could end.
We would like to take this opportunity to point out that the state argument against Kei Cars can apply to countless classic cars. So many old cars are allowed on the streets these days that they wouldn't even come close to meeting safety and emissions regulations. And if the Rhode Island state is so concerned about the safety of its motorists, riding a motorcycle or an open-air tricycle is certainly far more dangerous than a closed kei car. Joining the Rhode Island reasoning creates a slippery slope for cars that should also be taken off the road. While we doubt the state will begin ousting classic muscle cars and early automobiles like the Ford Model T and many others, the lawsuit against them is no different from that against imported JDM vehicles. So why does the state vote and choose? Those kei cars that have been brought under the 25 year rule are just a different form of vintage car - people don't import Honda Actys to drive on a daily basis.
Look out for this type of activity just in case it spreads further into the rest of New England. You can give us a tip right here if you find that your DMV is taking a similar path.
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