Gov. Ralph DLG Torres signed last week Senate Bill 20-55 to regulate motor vehicle rental companies in the CNMI.
Sen. Sixto K. Igisomar (R-Saipan) introduced the measure, now known as Public Law 20-55.
Torres signed the bill into law on Friday, Sept. 21, but it was overshadowed by P.L. 20-66 (House Bill 20-178 HD4) or the Taulamwaar Sensible CNMI Cannabis Act of 2018 that regulates the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis.
Igisomar said the car rental business in the CNMI has grown tremendously, with most of the establishments popping up in Garapan. Vehicle traffic has also increased. Traffic collision involving rental cars have also risen in the past few years.
“Rental companies must ensure that all renters, especially renters who are foreigners, have a valid picture operator’s license from the CNMI, U.S. jurisdictions, or their respective foreign country. Rental companies must give renters proper notice of the terms and conditions of a rental agreement as well as disclose all pertinent information, fees, charges, costs associated with a rental agreement,” as stated in P.L. 20-65.
Regulating the rental companies in the CNMI is one way of ensuring that these establishments won’t charge customers additional fees and other unreasonable charges that are connected to the rental agreement.
“Rental companies and their rental vehicle agents are selling additional insurance coverage for rental motor vehicles without any regulation by the Commonwealth government. The terms, conditions, and provisions of the additional insurance sold by the rental car companies have not been approved by the Commonwealth Insurance Commissioner,” added the new law.
Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan) hopes the Marianas Visitors Authority would team up with international carriers to educate arriving tourists with local traffic rules and regulations.
Guerrero said it is not only about the safety of tourists but also the community. “The tourists that come here and want to drive are not so knowledgeable of the right of way on our roads.
“Most of us have seen how they drive on our roads. I’ve seen a couple that the driver was looking at the map while driving at the same time. Who’s not going to be scared of that? Or the driver will stop in the middle of the traffic lights. Or there’s no respect for the lights itself and drive through,” added Guerrero, the House Commerce and Tourism Committee chair.
Some tourists also drive over the speed limit, make sudden U-turns or sharp turns, stop while in the middle of the road, drive along the beach, and even use the center lane as a second lane.
And this, Guerrero said, is where MVA would come in. “…I think MVA should start reaching out to the airlines. Probably, when they are ready to land in the CNMI, they play a video clip or a brochure should be passed to tourists if they are going to drive or will be driving. So they understand the right of way and other traffic rules.”
He said that video clips played at car rental shops are not enough.
“Who in their right minds going to sit there and expect to watch that while going through a rental lease agreement? You just wanted to go through that paperwork and go drive yourself to places you wanted to visit.”