CAA to refund Southern Ontarians after Florida licence row
Published Friday, February 15, 2013 11:09AM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 15, 2013 6:41PM EST
The Canadian Automobile Association’s (CAA) Southern Ontario chapter on Friday said it is offering a full refund to travellers who purchased international driving permits in order to drive in Florida.
Travellers had rushed to get the permits after learning about a new law requiring all non-U.S. drivers to carry the special permits if they wished to drive in a state.
Although the State of Florida implemented the law in January, it only became known earlier this week, spurring a rush of applications to the CAA.
However, Florida on Thursday backed away from enforcing the law after strong reactions from Canadian travellers.
"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," a statement from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said in a statement.
Instead, the Florida Highway Patrol will "defer enforcement of violations of the amended statutory section" until a treaty amendment can be made. Non-residents will still need to keep a valid driver's licence from their home country on hand at all times if they wish to drive in the state.
In response, CAA South Central Ontario announced on its website it would refund travellers who had bought a permit and passport photos on Feb. 13 or Feb. 14.
Customers with the IDP and the original receipt will have until Friday, March 15, 2013, to obtain a refund at any CAA SCO store.
The refund only applies to the Southern Ontario chapter, according to Kristine Simpson, a spokeswoman with the CAA national office. It is up the individual chapters to make such decisions.
Despite the impending modification of the law, the CAA on Friday encouraged snowbirds to obtain the special permits anyway, just in case.
“Based on how rapidly the situation is evolving, we continue to recommend for those Canadians travelling to Florida in the next few days, you should consider obtaining an IDP,” the CAA said in a statement posted online. “For those who will not be travelling for some days, and those already in Florida, we advise you to wait for developments.”
The association would issue further updates “as the situation becomes clearer.”
Lineups at CAA branches continued on Friday, as travellers were unclear about how to interpret the latest developments.
“Nobody is knowing what to do, and they're all confused,” one motorist told CTV Toronto.
Florida officials are yet to decide how they will modify the law to accommodate drivers from Canada.
"I'm not sure exactly how we're going to end up working it but we're going to determine how to modify it to accommodate the concerns of Canadians and others," said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, a spokesperson for the Florida DMV
The state says it implemented the new law simply to ensure that all drivers carry licences written in a language that police officers can understand, but didn't take into account the fact that Canadian licences are already in English.
With files from The Canadian Press