Important news regarding your Canadian licence and driving in Florida



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This Journal and these notes brought to you by the "travel Bibles" for those driving to, around and from the Sunshine State:

"Along I-75"
and
"Along Florida's Expressways"

Both books contain NO advertising or commercial content - just good "local knowledge" travel information.

  Scroll down the page for a summary of the International Driving Permit (IDP) issue

DAILY JOURNAL OF THE IDP REPEAL BILL


Tuesday, April 2, 2013 - International Visitors no longer need an IDP to drive legally in Florida

Yesterday Governor Rick Scott signed bill HB 7059 to repeal the need for foreign visitors to require an International Driving License to drive legally in Florida. The bill is retroactive to January 1, 2013, the date when the IDP requirment came into effect.

During the signing, Governor Scott said, "Florida is committed to being the number one tourist destination in the world and signing this bill into law will ensure that our international visitors continue to come to Florida."

Canadians represent Florida's largest international visitor market and in 2011, spent more than US$3.9 billion dollars while enjoying the Sunshine State.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 3rd Reading of the IDP bill by Florida's Senate passes unanimously.

The bill to repeal the requirement for Canadians to require an IDP before driving legally in the State was read in the Florida Senate for the third time today and was immediately certified after a unanimous vote of 38 For and 0 Against.

It must now be signed into law by Governor Rick Scott before becoming effective. Once signed, the amended law will be dated January 1, 2013 thereby revoking the need for Canadians to require an IDP while driving in the State.


Monday, March 25, 2013 - 3rd Reading of the IDP bill by Florida's Senate is still in a holding pattern.

Since this bill passed its second Senate reading on March 19, there has been no further action by the Florida Senate. It sits on the Senate Calendar with no date scheduled awaiting the third and final reading, the last hurdle before the bill moved to the Governor for signature and passage into law (retroactive to January 1, 2012).

Our website monitors the status of this bill on an hourly basis and will be updated as soon as the Senate has concluded its final vote and the bill moves to Governor, Rick Scott for signature.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - Florida's Senate Bill 1766 to repeal the IDP law.

The next stage to repeal the 2012 law requiring foreign visitors driving in the State, to possess an International Driving Permit is in progress.

The Florida Senate is currently in the process of voting upon its bill to repeal this controversial law. Yesterday, it passed its 2nd reading and is now on the Senate calendar for the third and final reading, possibly today.

A unanimous Senate decision to repeal is expected. The bill will then go to Governor Rick Scott for signature and passage into law.


Thursday, March 14, 2013 - Yesterday, Florida's House voted to repeal the IDP law.

Florida's state House voted unanimously yesterday (116-0) to repeal the 2012 law which requires foreign visitors driving in the State, to possess an International Driving Permit.

Next Tuesday, the state Senate is scheduled to vote on its bill (SB1766) repealing the IDP law, after which it will go to Governor Rick Scott for signature and passage into law.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013 - International Driving Permit Law to be immediately repealed.

Florida newspapers report this morning that the Florida House in Tallahassee will vote today on Bill HB 7059, to unanimously repeal the International Driving Permit (IDP) law, which requires foreign nationals (including Canadians) to possess an IDP before legally driving in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Senate is scheduled to take up the bill next Tuesday (March 19th), and after a vote of approval (SB 1766), send it to Governor Rick Scott to sign for immediate enactment in Florida's law statutes, rather than wait for traditional bill signing in July.

House Representative Ben Albritton (R-Wauchula) has officially apologized to Canadians for the passage of the original 2012 bill, and said, "I hope the folk in Canada feel relieved."

Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) said, "… we have a lot of Canadians who come down to our beaches and we want them to keep coming."

Ironically, the House's final vote on the bill will come on "Tourism Day" at the State Capitol.


 

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Summary of the 2012 IDP law

On January 1st, 2013, a new traffic law quietly came into effect in the State of Florida requiring all drivers from countries other than the USA, to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to their regular driving license (DL). This requirement was generally not known by the millions of visitors who visit the State each winter until the "story" broke in mid-February.

Many Canadian snowbirds already at their winter homes in Florida found that they no longer had the legal right to drive in the State. Canadians about to embark on a trip to Florida (driving their own car or renting a car upon arrival) either cancelled their plans or rushed to acquire the necessary IDP.

This web report answers many of the questions being posed and provides links to various involved sources. As of this date, the situation is still unfolding and this report will be updated as new information is received.

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I have been driving in Florida for many years. What has changed?

On January 1, 2013, the State of Florida enacted legislation which requires all drivers visiting the State from countries other than the USA, to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to their regular driving license (DL). It is now illegal for a foreign visitor to drive a car in Florida (whether your own or rented) without these two licenses in the vehicle.

The reason the Florida IDP requirement has been introduced is that there are so many visitor to Florida from various parts of the world driving in the State with licenses issued in foreign languages. This presents a problem of interpretation to a police officer at a roadside traffic incident. An IDP carries the same license information (and an identifying photo) in English, as well as other languages.

However, lawmakers in Tallahassee forgot that most Canadians (one of Florida's largest non-domestic markets bringing $3.9 billion tourist dollars into the State each year) already have driving licenses (DLs) in English. Canada's Quebec, which issues its DLs in French, is the only exception to this.

Also affected are British visitors - another huge Florida visitor market - whose driving licenses are obviously issued in English.

Click here to view the legislation.

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What is an IDP?

An International Driving Permit (IDP) is an international license recognized by most United Nations member countries. It is issued by an authorized agency in your country and is proof that you possess a valid driver's license.

The document is slightly larger than a standard passport and is essentially a multiple language translation of the permit-holder's normal driver's license, complete with photograph and vital statistics.

It bears a passport style photograph of you and translates your driving qualifications into ten of the world's most commonly used languages, and it allows travellers to drive in over 150 different countries without further tests or applications. It is important to note that the IDP is only valid when used in conjunction with a valid driver's license.

Click here for further information about the Paris, Geneva and Vienna Conventions which contain the Articles related to the IDP.

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Why is it necessary while driving in Florida

Why is an IDP necessary while driving in Florida? Because it is (for now) the law and regardless of what some news media have reported, it may still be enforced by some county and local police jurisdictions.

Further, your car insurance coverage while driving in Florida may also be affected by this new law. Your coverage may be null and void if you do not have the correct license documents in your car.

We believe the Florida legislature will review this situation when it reconvenes in March but any changes made (perhaps to exempt licenses issued in the English language) will not take effect until July.

Click here for further information about the Paris, Geneva and Vienna Conventions which contain the Articles related to the IDP.

Click here to visit the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario Club website which contains further information about the IDP for Canadians.

Click here to visit the British Automobile Association website which contains further information about obtaining an IDP in the UK.

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Who issues IDPs to Canadian and British drivers?

By international agreement, the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is mandated as the sole Canadian organization authorized to issue IDPs to any Canadian driver requesting the same. You do not need to be a CAA member but there is a fee to cover the administration costs.

In Britain, The Automobile Association (AA) is the sole issuing organization.

The rushed issuance of Canadian IDPs over the past few days has been forced upon the CAA by the new Florida law; it has absolutely nothing to do with the CAA seizing an opportunity to increase its revenues as some misinformed people have reported.

We recommend that those in Canada intending on visiting Florida in the near future and driving a car during their visit (either their own or a rental), obtain an IDP from the CAA before their visit.

British Florida vistors intent on renting a car upon arrival should also obtain an IDP before leaving the UK although most Florida car rental companies are ignoring the law. Check with your car rental company or travel agent before flying to Florida.

Long term "snowbirds" already in Florida can apply by mail but will not be "legal" until they receive their IDP.

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How do I obtain one?

Canadians in Canada, contact your local Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) office. The CAA have the application forms and can also take the required photographs. You do not need to be a CAA member but there is a fee to all, to cover the administration costs.

See below for a link to the CAA main information page.


Canadians outside Canada, download the application form from the CAA site as follows.

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How does this new law affect Canadian drivers? How has the Canadian media reacted?

The fact that Canadians driving in Florida may not be legally licensed, broke on February 14, 2013. The story got extensive coverage in print, on radio and on TV news and as a result, many Florida-bound tourists expressed concern about this little known law and CAA offices were swamped with requests for an IDP.

Please note however these reports indicated incorrectly that the Florida requirement for an IDP had been "backed down."

This statement is not true since the reports only reflected the decision by the Florida Highway Patrol.

This is only one policing agency - the reports did not deal with the many other Florida police jurisdictions which also have traffic enforcement responsibilities. Some may still enforce the IDP requirement since it is on the law books.

Here are links to some of the Canadian news stories ...

        Click here for the Toronto Star

        Click here for the CTV News

        Click here for the Globe and Mail

On February 19th, the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) issued the following release:

        Click here for the CSA statement.

There was some reaction in the USA. Here is the Huffington Post report and coverage from several Florida regional newspapers ...

        Click here for the Huffington Post

        Click here for the Sarasota Herald Tribune

        Click here for the Florida Lakeland Ledger

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The current enforcement situation

Legislators in Tallahassee (Florida's capital city) have realized that an error has been made which could have a negative effect on the State's number one industry - tourism.

Late on February 14th, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) issued an announcement that for the time being, the Florida Highway Patrol would not be enforcing the law.

This was followed by a media release from VISITFlorida, the State's tourism agency, providing further information about the FDHSMV announcement.

        Click here to view the FDHSMV announcement

        Click here to view VISITFlorida's announcement

Other Police Jurisdictions: There are however many layers of police jurisdictions in Florida. From County sheriff offices to local city and town police jurisdictions. These may or may not place a temporary "non-enforcement" rule on this new law so again, all non-U.S. guests driving in Florida are advised to obtain an IDP for their own protection.

Yesterday (March 8), various Florida newspapers quoted a spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA) who said that the CAA had informed them of a case involving a Canadian tourist in the Sarasota area who was held until he paid a $268 fine for violating the IDP law.

Canadians are well advised to obtain an IDP until this law is officially revoked by Florida's legislators. The earliest date for this is July.

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The Canadian Car Insurance issue

There is a further very important issue for Candians driving in Florida which media reports may not have picked up. Are car accident claims filed with Canadian car insurance carriers affected?

There is a concern that should a Canadian driver be involved in an accident and not have an IDP, their Canadian insurance company might take this opportunity to deny the claim since the driver was not correctly licensed (i.e., in violation) under the "letter of the law."

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) has recommended to its member companies that they accept that drivers without the IDP be treated as if correctly licensed. But faced with an expensive claim, who knows what the individual company position will be.

We recommend that all Canadians driving their own cars in Florida check with their insurance company's Claims Department to ensure that the lack of an IDP will not be an issue and that they are still covered while in Florida.

UPDATE - on February 22, we contacted our MPP Charles Sousa who is also a member of the Ontario Government's caucus. We requested that Charles follow up with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO), the regulator of Ontario insurance companies. Here is the FSCO reply regarding the validity of our car insurance, held by the Royal & Sun Alliance insurance company ...

"(we have) been in communication with insurance companies about the Florida State Law requirement for IDPs. Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company (RSA) has advised FSCO that the State of Florida’s IDP requirement will not impact coverage on automobile insurance policies, as long as drivers hold a valid driver’s license as per the terms of the Ontario Automobile Policy.

"As well, every insurance company (operating in Ontario) has a consumer complaint officer who oversees the company’s complaint handling process and is responsible for ensuring that an individual’s complaint is addressed."

The FSCO recommends that any person driving in Florida with a valid Ontario driving license but without an IDP, and covered by a car insurance comapny with offices in Ontario, phone their company's complaint officer to determine whether they are covered or not in the case of an accident.

Some companies may have decided to deny such claims due to the absence of all the legal driving license documents required by Florida law.

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About the author of this document

Dave Hunter is the Canadian author of the driving guide, Along Florida's Expressways, a guide book endorsed by VISITFlorida and used for "driving" information at the State's Welcome Centers.

He is also the author of the bible for those driving to Florida, Along I-75, now in its 17th edition.

Dave is a founding member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC), a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and of the International Travel Writers Alliance-UK (ITWA). He specializes in travel to, from and around Florida.

Dave has been following this IDP situation closely, contacting the various agencies involved along the way. This site will be updated as new information becomes available.

In summary, his recommendations are that:

        1. regardless of statements by Florida police authorities, you obtain an IDP from the CAA if you are planning on driving in Florida, and,

        2. that you contact your insurance company to ensure your car insurance will be in effect if you do not have an IDP.

Please feel free to contact Dave by e-mail at mile_oak@rogers.com, or click here.

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