The Florida Highway Patrol will not enforce a state law that required Canadian and non-U.S. resident drivers to carry an international driver’s permit.
Officials in the Sunshine State said the law requires further review because it may violate an international treaty and enforcement was being deferred.
According to the rules introduced quietly Jan. 1, all visitors with foreign licences must have an international permit issued by their country of residence as well as a valid licence from home.
Many Canadians were caught off guard by the regulations, which also apply to any vehicle, including rentals.
Pete Karageorgos of the Insurance Bureau of Canada told 680News that Canadians should expect to be covered by insurance as usual.
“We’ve asked insurance companies to operate on the status quo that if you do have a client in the United States or in Florida specifically that your insurer does in fact cover your claim.”
However, he advises that to err on the side of caution to obtain the permit until the law is clarified.
“To be on the safe side, get the International Driving Permit,” he said.
“They’re not that difficult to get. Although I understand that there is a great deal of interest and large line-ups to get them.”
“They’re fairly inexpensive, fairly easy to get, it’s good to have.”
Officials said the law was passed so police officers do not encounter foreign licence documents in languages they cannot read.
The IDP translates existing driver licence information in 10 languages, is valid for one year and accompanies a valid driver’s licence.
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.”
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.”
How to obtain a permit
- The permits can be obtained through CAA offices
- Canadians currently in Florida can apply for one through via mail
- The IDP costs $25
- Applicants must be 18 years of age and have a valid Canadian driver’s licence
- Applicants need two passport-sized photographs