Florida licence rule change catches Canadians off guard, CAA calls for change

The Canadian Press
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TORONTO — Canadians on both sides of the border expressed surprise and indignation Thursday upon learning new rules require them to have an International Driving Permit to motor around the Sunshine State.

Under the rules introduced Jan. 1, all visitors with foreign licences must have an international permit issued by their country of residence in addition to a valid licence from home.

The quiet implementation of the regulations — which apply to any vehicle, including rentals — resulted in many Canadians being caught off guard.

“I had no idea, we’ve been coming down here for years and never had a problem,” said David Whitford, a Norwich, Ont., resident currently in Cape San Blas, Fla., who realized he’d technically been driving around illegally for the past few weeks.

“I can’t see what the problem is ... for whatever reason they’ve decided that we’re being made to feel a little unwelcome here.”

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has said the law was passed so police are not  faced with foreign licence documents in languages they can’t understand.

An IDP translates existing driver licence information into 10 languages and is valid for one year. It is not a substitute for a valid driver’s licence but rather, accompanies one.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, however, the department said it learned its new requirement might violate the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, an international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory.

“The Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of violations of the amended statutory section until a final determination of the alignment of the amendment with the treaty can be made,” the department said.

“Non-resident visitors to Florida who wish to drive while here will be required to have in their immediate possession a valid driver license issued in his or her name from another state or territory of the U.S. or from their country of residence. However, the FHP will not take enforcement action based solely on the lack of an International Driving Permit.”

“I can’t see what the problem is ... for whatever reason they’ve decided that we’re being made to feel a little unwelcome here.” David Whitford, Canadian traveller in Florida

The Canadian Automobile Association — which issues international driving permits — called on Florida to amend the law to exempt Canadians.

“No North American jurisdiction has ever asked for an IDP before from another North American jurisdiction. This is a first,” CAA spokesman Ian Jack told The Canadian Press.

“They’ve subsequently told us that they’ve recognized that it was a mistake to include Canada and that they will be moving to exempt Canada, but on the other hand, because it’s legislation and their legislature doesn’t sit till mid-March, it’s going to take some time for that to happen.”

While it has not had reports of Canadians being censured for driving without an IDP in the state to date, the CAA was still suggesting Canuck drivers obtain an international permit until the law is clarified.

Florida’s official state tourism marketing corporation has identified Canada as its top international market. Visit Florida said 3.1 million Canadians travelled to the state in 2010.

As word of the change spread on Thursday, many expressed astonishment  at the lack of publicity around the new rules. Even the CAA said it only learned of the change when an American Automobile Association worker in Florida called to discuss the new rules two days ago.

“When I first heard I thought maybe it was a joke and then obviously it’s not...it’s serious,” said Christine Ellison, a Georgetown, Ont., resident who often spends her winters in Florida.

“The driving down here is no different than driving in Canada, our licences are in English, surely they can read them. I don’t understand why it would even be necessary.”

The IDP costs $25 and can be obtained through CAA offices. Canadians currently in Florida can apply for one through the mail.

The association has been issuing the permits, which are recognized in some 140 countries, since the 1920s.

Organizations: CAA, Florida Department of Highway Safety, North American Geneva Convention Canadian Press American Automobile Association

Geographic location: Florida, TORONTO, Canada U.S. Norwich Cape San Blas Canuck Georgetown

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • JOhn McDonald
    April 03, 2013 - 16:11

    Internation divers lic.

  • wendy grant
    March 24, 2013 - 23:10

    Makes no difference to me what those stupid FloridansTHINK , because if they didn;t have us Canadians going there all these years they would go under, and have no doubt that is happening now. WHEN YOU COME TO CANADA MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR CANADIAN DRIVERS LICENSE. MY VCATION PLANS WILL NEVER BE TO FLRIDA AGAIN MORE PLACES ARE BECOMING JUST AS CHEAP.

  • Caged In
    March 21, 2013 - 09:19

    I am in Florida, I have been ripped off in getting the IDL. I will be demanding it be returned when I return home. My husband & I spoke to two different Sherrifs from different offices. We told them what we were told that 250.00 fines were given and to be paid on the spot. It was also on Canadian news. They had a good laugh. The sherrifs said it was bogus they must have gotten fines from something else. When the local offices heard of the Geneva Convention ruling and several other reasons that come into play we cannot do it.

  • Ken Thompson
    March 18, 2013 - 16:48

    Suggest CAA in PEI check with Ontario, where they recently refunded all Canadians who had purchased the IDL.

  • TFM
    March 13, 2013 - 11:22

    Florida should do more than exempt Canadians from this rule If the issue is translation of foreign licences into English,it should exempt drivers from all countries where licences are already in English. They should also consider exempting Spanish language licence holders since so many Floridians are of Hispanic heritage. Police officers can easily obtain a translator locally even if they do not read Spanish themselves.

  • sean brown
    March 04, 2013 - 16:36

    some of the resorts offer transfers to and from the resort to universal ,disney and shopping. now that this has come into place to hurt visitors more who pay alot to get there and especially at their parks we will specifically look for places that only offer resort transportation

  • major issue
    February 27, 2013 - 08:42

    The major issue here is that CAA is still recommending and charging people for the permits even though it says they will not be enforced until after the geneva issue is clarified. Sure, we will try and eliminate for the need to get the permit, but will profit from it as long as we can!

  • charles
    February 20, 2013 - 15:31

    The last time we went to Florida was about 15 years ago in February. It was to cold to even golf plus we got tired of standing in line at the Morison cafeteria and the IHOP restaurant. Let them make up all the stupid rules they want. We wont be going back there. Thanks Eh

  • george stewart
    February 15, 2013 - 18:37

    It is so annoying that it was known since yesterday that this law is not going to be enforced, yet CAA is still selling the IDP to freaked out clients. Please publish the official press release from Florida Dept of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles released Feb 14th.: We apologize for the confusion concerning a new law in Florida concerning International Driving permits. This is the new policy which was put into effect late Thursday afternoon February 14, 2013. During the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Legislature amended section 322.04, Florida Statutes, to require visitors from outside the United States to have an International Driving Permit in order to drive lawfully in Florida. This change took effect Jan. 1, 2013. It has come to the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles attention that this requirement may violate the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949), an international treaty to which the United States is a signatory. Treaties to which the United States is a party preempt state laws in conflict with them. Therefore, the Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of violations of the amended statutory section until a final determination of the alignment of the amendment with the treaty can be made. Non-resident visitors to Florida who wish to drive while here will be required to have in their immediate possession a valid driver license issued in his or her name from another state or territory of the U.S. or from their country of residence. However, the FHP will not take enforcement action based solely on the lack of an International Driving Permit. Customer Service Center Correspondence/Email Unit Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles www.flhsmv.gov The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is committed to Service, Integrity, Courtesy, Professionalism, Innovation and Excellence in all we do. Please let us know how we are doing via our online customer service survey at https://www.research.net/s/MLR9RGC.

  • Sylvia Cole
    February 15, 2013 - 07:53

    We,ve been in Florida since mid November and this is a big surprise to us.If all 3.? Million Canadians stayed home next season,Florida could roll up their sidewalks and walk off into the sunset!!! Food establishments would have to close up,we are hardy people us Canadians and this does not make us feel verywelcome as we have in the past!!!

  • statler
    February 14, 2013 - 18:13

    OK why not return the favor and ask all florida tourist, and any other state that comes up with stupid rules like this to do the same? enough of this bullshit from the south they say jump and we do it time to stand up for ourselvs, but then again good old president steven harper likely won't do anything

  • Linda Shaw
    February 14, 2013 - 18:08

    I think it's a great idea, and I think all of Canada should follow suit, so that all foreign drivers to Canada have to go through the same thing. Starting with Florida!!

    • Maxwell
      February 15, 2013 - 11:33

      This is just another cash grab (hidden tax) and Canadians are expected to bend over again. I say if this law stays on the books that we should all visit some place else and watch what other tax they'll come up with. Pure BS. Americans have gotten themselves in this massive debt and now they want Canadians to pay for it. I won't be going stateside anymore. Plenty of other warm countries to visit without being abused. What will they think of next?