House OKs bill that allows right-hand drive vehicles 25 years old or older


Richard T. Lizama

The House of Representatives passed Wednesday a bill that will allow the importation into the CNMI and registration of right-hand drive vehicles that are 25 years or older.

All 19 House members present in the session, voted “yes” to the passage of House Bill 22-79, HS1, which was authored by Rep. Richard T. Lizama (D-Saipan). The bill now goes to the Senate for action.

Before the voting, the House adopted the House Committee on Judiciary and Governmental Operations report that recommended that the bill be passed with amendments to provide clarity in the findings and purpose section of the legislation.

Lizama stated in the bill that registration of right-hand drive vehicles in the CNMI is prohibited under the Commonwealth Code unless such vehicles legally entered the CNMI prior to Dec. 30, 1991, or if such vehicles’ primary use is for agricultural or construction purposes.

Lizama said many residents of the CNMI have made their concerns known when it comes to registering and/or importing right-hand drive vehicles for their personal use.

He said this legislation brings attention to the public interest in importing right-hand drive vehicles that are permitted under current U.S. Vehicle Regulations, namely the 25-year “Classic” exemption.

According to the JGO report, the enactment of the legislation will not result in additional costs to the CNMI government; on the contrary, it aims to generate additional revenue due to the probable increase in vehicle registrations for operating purposes.

The JGO, chaired by Rep. Celina R. Babauta (D-Saipan), said this avenue will allow for interested motorists to register their right-hand drive vehicle(s) with the Bureau of Motor Vehicle.

The JGO said right-hand drive vehicles are common modes of transportation used in foreign countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Great Britain.

In the U.S., left-hand drive vehicles are the most commonly used vehicle among motorists.

The JGO found that there are no laws in the U.S. that prohibit the use of right-hand drive vehicles since they are obligated to obey the same traffic rules and regulations as other vehicles.

The JGO said there are no mandatory steering wheel structure regulations for vehicles as long as they abide and comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

The JGO said the use of right-hand drive vehicles should be permitted since they do not violate any federal law and regulation regarding vehicles.

Pursuant to the Commonwealth Code, right-hand drive vehicles are prohibited unless they are heavy equipment or construction vehicles. Under the statute, the JGO said, a right-hand drive vehicle must be converted to a left-hand drive vehicle in order to be lawfully registered in the CNMI. The JGO found this requirement to be very costly and inhibits the registration of such vehicles.

The JGO also found that pursuant to a federal statute, a non-complying motor vehicle shall be exempted from the importation restriction if the vehicle is at least 25 years old. The JGO said the proposed legislation aims to follow this federal statute.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at
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