UPDATE: Florida defers enforcement of new licence rule that surprised, angered Canucks

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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.

But as word of the change began to circulate, officials in the state that millions of Canadians visit every year issued a release saying enforcement was being deferred because the change may run afoul of an international treaty.

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.”

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 licenses 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.

 

 

••••

(Earlier story)

TORONTO — Canadians on both sides of the border expressed surprise and indignation Thursday upon learning they need an International Driving Permit to motor around the Sunshine State.

Under new rules introduced at the beginning of the year, Florida now requires all visitors with foreign licences to 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.

The Canadian Automobile Association — which issues international driving permits — is calling 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 is advising Canuck drivers to make sure they have an international permit until the law is clarified.

“Florida officials are saying they don’t want to actively pursue this against Canadians at this point, but they cautioned us at the same time that they control the state troopers ... but they don’t control every local sheriff’s department across the state,” Jack said.

“Nobody’s going to be thrown into jail over this, but it is unclear at the same time exactly what the penalties might be.”

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 licenses 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.

 

 

••••

(Earlier story)

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) plans to ask the state of Florida to amend a new law that will require all non-U.S. residents, including Canadians, to carry a valid international driver's permit when driving their own vehicle or a rental vehicle in Florida.

The CAA said in a news release Florida state officials say the law was passed so that Florida law enforcement officials would not be faced with licence documents in languages they can't read, but the law captures drivers from all countries, including Canada.

The law now requires both a valid licence from the home country or province, and an international driver's permit.

The CAA said millions of Canadians have driven in Florida for decades without incidents related to the lack of an international driving permit.

The association said it has obtained the following official comment from the state of Florida regarding this change:

"Effective January 1, 2013, section 322.04, Florida Statutes were amended to require foreign visitors who drive in Florida to obtain an International Driving Permit in addition to their valid home country driver licence. The intent of the change in Florida law regarding the International Driving Permit was to aid law enforcement in Florida when interacting with drivers holding a license in a foreign language."

Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokeswoman, said the department will seek to clarify the law in the upcoming legislative session, which begins next month, to make it clear that a licence already written in English would be acceptable. But, until the law is clarified, she said, drivers should obtain an international driver's permit.

Although it will ask for an amendment, the CAA said, given the law as it stands today, it's advising Canadians planning on driving in Florida to consider acquiring an international driver’s permit.

The CAA is the only organization in Canada authorized to issue an International driving permit.

More information on international driver's permits can be found online at www.atlantic.caa.ca.

Organizations: CAA, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles

Geographic location: Florida, U.S., Canada

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Comments

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Recent comments

  • Dee
    February 14, 2013 - 21:12

    I say Canadians should boycott their theme parks,see what the Governor of Florida would think of that,they would certainly loose quite a bit of taxes.

  • paul
    February 14, 2013 - 20:30

    I HAVE A TRIP TO FLORIDA IN MARCH,THIS WILL BE MY SECOND TIME TO FLORIDA,I DO NOT THINK THAT THE POWERS THAT BE IN THE STATE.HAVE ASKED ALL THE BUSINESS OPERATORS IF THEY WANT TO LOSS ALL THE MONEY THAT WE CANADIANS BRING WITH US .I FOR ONE LIKE FLORIDA AND ITS PEOPLE.LETS NOT TAKE IT OUT ON THEM.THEY ARE TRYING TO LIVE AND HAVE FUN NOW AND THEN LIKE US.

  • KOOCH
    February 14, 2013 - 19:46

    Wow everyone....Do your homework....If you believe everything you read, think about these points...1. Florida Hwy. Patrol will not, YET, be enforcing this law. 2. It may even make Canadians exempt (except for Quebec, maybe). 3. Fl. may be violating or contravening the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic international treaty. 4. Why would any Cdn. pay $25. + $10. if it is not yet to be enforced or even legal for that matter. 5. Cdns. already in Fl. can apply by mail to CAA for this I.D.P. now (but, why would they?) 6. Maybe you should check with AAA first...apparently it's only $15. in Fl. (maybe this is just a rumor, but check it out. 7. Next legislation is slated for mid March, so, if it does become law, it probably won't be in effect till July 2013....8. WAIT, why would anyone be so darn eager to pay $25. PLUS when, in my opinion, is not yet necessary...9. If you're renting a vehicle in Fl., shop around...they won't all refuse you...check with Hertz & Enterprise....Good luck everyone....for now, I'm hanging on to my $25...you probably won't get a refund if you've paid for nothing...

  • Norm
    February 14, 2013 - 19:09

    We have been going to Fl. For the last 21 winters 6 months each winter,and we own a home there but I don't think It will be for much longer. We know when when the welcome mat has been pulled

  • gary
    February 14, 2013 - 17:56

    More reason to consider the hositality of Arizona. Recent years more and more Canadians are discovering Arizona as place to vacation.

  • George
    February 14, 2013 - 17:36

    To Ted, Heading South, and the rest..... As a dual citizen that is a Floridian / Newfoundlander I would like to point out that Florida IS a Government of its own. We have Federal Laws And State laws. DRIVING in a State Or a Province is a Privilege. Not a Right. It is granted by the State or Province. Florida has 88 million visitors per year... 1.3 million are Canadian. To assist Law Enforcement in Florida in protecting all residents and ALL visitors they would like a document printed in English. The IDP would be printed in English. As always, an amendment to the Florida law will be made for Canadians that present a valid document printed in English. Most International Visitors already show an IDP in most cases. The amendment will probably be completed in July 2013 by the State Government. You folks want to retaliate against the USA / Florida ? As the Battleship USS Missouri said to the Fleet Oiler in the Pacific when the Missouri refused to Identify herself and was threatened with being fired on by the Oiler.... "This is the Battleship USS Missouri,... Fire When Ready" Bitch, whine, complain. Grow up and comply with the law. We do when we travel outside the country Internationally. Why can't you ? Remember,.... Driving is a Privilege. Just settle down... It will get sorted out. Politicians never get a new law perfect the first time.

  • Kevin Clynick
    February 14, 2013 - 17:21

    So where does the almost 8 billion dollars in revenue go?

  • Laura Bowen
    February 14, 2013 - 16:48

    we are members of a local Canadian group here in Florida and when this news erupted today there was a great deal of concern b/c there are hundreds/thousands of Canadians already here and did not know anything about the changes in the state law. One of our group executives called the local police forces in Lake, Sumter and Marion counties and all three denied any knowledge of this 'new' legislation - they have not received any details and currently are not applying this law - uncertain what will happen now that they have been questioned about it

  • Darrell
    February 14, 2013 - 15:34

    Please read the following Statement from DHSMV on International Driving Permits 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’s 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.

    • Clarice
      February 16, 2013 - 23:18

      Darrell: Congratulations ...you have done your homework ...instead of listening to media. I needed answers two years ago when i was purchasing a property here in Florida and was in the process of buying a car also.I called CAA re: the IDP requirement then for foreigners and was very promptly reasured that I would not be needing it and that the IDP was for other foreign countries that issued driving licences in other languages other than english and that holds true today. if people would just inquire to the right dept. first instead of mouthing off. Instead of spending that $25.00 for an IDP permit i think i will deposit it to my Can/USA account and add the equivelant on a monthly basis until this law comes into effect .Wouldn't it be interesting to know what the grand total would be .Any one up for the challenge... As a Canadian I would like to say "Thank you America"for allowing me to have the priviledge to vacation and spend my Winters here and drive with my valid NLCanada English Drivers Licence. GOD BLESS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ....

  • Heading South
    February 14, 2013 - 15:02

    CAA are the only ones handling the application for this IDL,make you wonder are they partners with Florida,are they looking for new members.Funny travel agents just found out about it the same way we did by reading the newspapers,and this has been in effect since January.I just booked a car to travel to Florida in a few weeks I I wasn't, even told about it when I inquired about it today with my travel agent they did,nt know about it,now I may not have enough time to get this,now I can be refused a rental.We the biggest export with the US maybe it's time for us to make it hard for them.But then again the US are crumbling so they have to do something.

    • Busy Bayman
      February 15, 2013 - 05:21

      The IDP process only takes 15-20mins and you walk out of the office with it in hand. Why would you not have the time to get one? I'm heading to Florida a week from today so I called the local office and inquired on the process. They can even take the photos in house as well. Rather spend the $25 and get one then take the chances.

  • Ted
    February 14, 2013 - 14:07

    This would not be necessary if Quebec followed the rest of the world and had english on their drivers lisc and registration. I am sure if there was a quebecer policeman in the far regions of quebec, who looked at a florida drivers lisc and registration, would require some amplification. And note, that this is not just for Canadians, but all foreigners. Where Florida has a very very high impact of tourists the cops should have an easier job

    • d
      February 14, 2013 - 20:37

      Ha Ha ...blame it on those big bad french separatists again....what a load a crap! While your there might as well have their names translated.

  • Ted
    February 14, 2013 - 14:06

    This would not be necessary if Quebec followed the rest of the world and had english on their drivers lisc and registration. I am sure if there was a quebecer policeman in the far regions of quebec, who looked at a florida drivers lisc and registration, would require some amplification. And note, that this is not just for Canadians, but all foreigners. Where Florida has a very very high impact of tourists the cops should have an easier job

  • Jack
    February 14, 2013 - 13:35

    In retaliation to Florida's move against Canadians, I think that provinces that honour USA drivers licenses should not allow those with Floridian Driver's Licenses from driving on Canadian roads without an IDP as a reciprocity measure. As for Florida, the best policy at this time is to suspend the mandatory IDP law, especially for those with English licenses from Canada (except Quebec unless they have an English equivalent license), Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain (including dependencies like Bermuda or Falkland Islands), Ireland, Hong Kong, Guyana, India (English licenses only), European Union (English licenses only), and South Africa. That way, Florida stops recursive discrimination against English speaking foreigners.

  • Jack
    February 14, 2013 - 13:29

    Because forcing non-American drivers to have International Driver Permits is an international matter, I think that Florida is overstepping their bounds. Under American law, matters involving foreigners, including Canadians, must be handled through the US State Department and Department of Homeland Security, not the State of Florida. As a result of trying to act like a country and not a politcal subdivision, the Obama Administration should punish Florida for acting on their own interest towards international peoples. Besides, if we accept Florida licenses as part of various agreements between USA and the provinces, Florida has to do the same as part of reciprocity. No more making your own laws against Canadians, Florida. Besides, as long as you're part of USA, you'll stick by their rules, not your own. Down with Florida.

    • Devil's Advocate
      February 14, 2013 - 19:48

      I am pretty sure Jack, that states and provinces write their own laws. That's why it is 19 years before you can legally drink in NFLD, and 18 years old in Alberta for example. If a cop saw you smoke a joint in B.C., he probably wouldn't waste his time writing a ticket, but in NFLD you would be in court and your name in the paper. Or read the U.S. constitution, may enlighten you a little.

  • P. Craig
    February 14, 2013 - 13:21

    It is bad enough that we are required to have Florida Drivers Permit, if we have a vehicle with Florida plates that we drive each year for 3 months. This could be caused by the Northern Invasion, of " Non-English Speaking " vacationing natives. There are examples where they cannot understand or speak the language of the locals, when it is to their benefit. Alternate, it could be the attempt to grab more tax base. What ever the reason for this, will come back to haunt them and their tourist $$.

    • B Wall
      February 14, 2013 - 17:43

      P Craig I have a car in Florida and I have insurance but I do not have a Florida Drivers Permit. I was told when I got the car and changed it to my name at the Motor Vehicle Office that a Florida Drivers Permit was not necessary for me to own a car and drive in Florida. I do have a valid drivers licence in Ontario and I did have to show proof of being licensed to drive. I have had my car for 4 years now.

  • Florida bound
    February 14, 2013 - 13:19

    This is ridiculous,maybe people should start vacationing in their own Province or their own country.We as a family are Florida Bound next month we already have to pay $10.00 plus taxes a day for a second driver on a rental car now they are imposing this extra expense on us.$25.00 plus $10.00 for passport pictures for two people is almost an extra $100.00.How hard is it to read a drivers licence number,the spelling of someone's Country or their name don,t change.What a pile of bull.

  • Helene Tessier
    February 14, 2013 - 12:03

    What about us snowbirds who are already in Florida and won't be returning to Canada till April???

  • Sizzla
    February 14, 2013 - 11:18

    Florida is the Quebec Riviera, they are shooting themselves in the foot. Another cash grab, maybe the PQ have something to do with this......