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Update: Get an International Driving Permit for Florida, warns AA

Important update: Since we published the below news piece yesterday, we have just received the following from Florida State:

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in a February 14th, 2013 statement, suspended the state’s recently enacted International Driving Permit (IDP) requirement pending further study. International visitors who plan to drive in Florida now need only a valid driver’s license issued from their own country.

Statement from Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles 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 January 1st, 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.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles: http://www.flhsmv.gov/IDP.htm

waltdisneyworld

While British holidaymakers are Florida veterans, a visit to the Sunshine State, home to Walt Disney World (above), Universal and Seaworld, could see them land in hot water without the right driving licence, the AA is warning.

Apparently, there has been a change in Florida law, which came in to being on January 1 this year that requires all visiting drivers to have a valid International Driving Permit. Previously UK drivers could hire cars in the state and drive with just their UK licence.

Rosie Sanderson, head of the AA’s International Motoring Services team, says the ruling came ‘out of the blue’ and was not publicised.

The half-term break has brought it to prominence, as holidaymakers are finding their UK licence is no longer acceptable on its own.  But there is conflicting advice, since some car hire companies were unaware of the law too, throwing the fly-drive market into chaos.

The penalty for infringing the law is strict and a British driver found to be without an IDP will be regarded as not having a valid licence and could face imprisonment or a citation demanding a mandatory court appearance.

“We were first alerted by a customer querying the introduction of the new regulation,” says Sanderson. “I understand that the new law was introduced because of the growing number of visitors’ licences that are not in English, making it difficult for police to confirm their validity.

“As a result, the requirement for an International Driving Permit (IDP) has been introduced which is affecting drivers from English-speaking countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, despite the fact that their licences are already in English.

“The AA has always recommended that drivers should take an IDP if they plan to drive in the USA since some car hire companies insist on seeing one.  Our website advice has been updated to point out that it is now compulsory in Florida and strongly recommended elsewhere in the USA.”

The licences can be issued at one of 88 designated Post Offices. You will need both parts of your driving licence, your passport and a passport-sized photograph and the IDP will be issued over the counter.  It costs £5.50.

See www.theaa.com/idp for more

One Response to Update: Get an International Driving Permit for Florida, warns AA

  1. Kev

    February 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Hi James/Trisha
    Thanks for the excellent info on this issue. It does seem like only a few reputable sites are keeping tourists up to date with reliable information!

    I just wanted to share with you that we received a note from the Orlando tourism board late on the evening of the 14th of February, advising us that the law was expected to be retracted fully during the next state legislature session on the 5th of March 2013.

    In the meantime, although the law technically still remains as you mention, it is not going to be permitted to affect the state’s tourism industry whatsoever.