Canadians and other non-U.S. residents who travel to Florida have been mandated to carry an international driving permit (IDP) because of a state law that took effect Jan. 1. The law requires all drivers who do not hold a U.S. licence driving in Florida to use an IDP, issued by their home country, in conjunction with their standard driver's licence. The Canadian government says an IDP
allows licensed motorists to drive in other countries without further tests or applications. It is proof a driver has a valid driver's licence in his or her country of residence. The government also warns that you may be required to have a valid IDP to drive in some countries and car rental agencies may require you to have one.
Montrealer Julie Klein just returned from Florida, and said she had no idea her Quebec licence was invalid, even though she checked with her insurance company before leaving.
"I'm happy I didn't get questioned or pulled over," she said.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
website states the new law "applies to any vehicle, including rental vehicles, [and] must be in the customer's name and from their country of residence."
An international driver's licence must be obtained through the Canadian Automobile Association
, and is valid for one year.
CAA travel centres 'overwhelmed'
Terry Fox, manager of the legal advisory department for CAA of South Central Ontario, strongly recommended for Canadians who plan to visit Florida without a valid U.S. licence to obtain an IDP from the local CAA travel centre before departing, but warned that wait times may be long.
"Some [CAA] stores are overwhelmed right now, so people should call first," said Fox.
Fox added he has not heard of any Canadian drivers in Florida running into trouble with this law.
"No one has ever told me there has been a report and I've spoken to various officials about this," said Fox.
Asked what Canadians already in Florida should do if they don't have an IDP, Fox urged them to mail an application to the CAA.
"I don't know what else you can do, fully practically speaking," said Fox.
The CAA said the law was passed so police would not be faced with licence documents in languages they could not understand
. But that may change in March. According to a report published on the CAA website, the Department of Highway Safety in Florida may change the law so that a licence already written in English would be acceptable. The CAA has stated that it will push for this and request that Florida officials follow through and amend the law.