Florida won't immediately enforce international driver's licence rule: officials
Published Thursday, February 14, 2013 9:52AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 14, 2013 6:48PM EST
The State of Florida has backed away from a recent law change that would have seen Canadian drivers -- packing their beach towels and flip-flops for a sunny winter getaway -- weighed down with another piece of baggage: an international driving permit.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says it will "defer" the enforcement of a new law that would requires Canadians and other non-U.S. citizens to carry an international driving permit -- in addition to their regular driver's licence -- if they wished to get behind the wheel of a car while visiting the Sunshine State.
"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 Flordia DMV says.
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.
Earlier in the day, some Canadians expressed outrage at the new rule, suggesting it was silly or implemented without warning.
"I'm glad we chose Vegas this year!," one man wrote on Twitter.
"Canadians in Florida now require international drivers' licences ... seriously? I find this out the day before I leave..." wrote another woman.
Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, a spokesperson for the Florida DMV, confirmed to CTVNews.ca Thursday that Florida quietly brought the new requirement into law on Jan. 1, though few people even noticed the new rules at first.
"I don't think anyone was honestly tuned into it until some British folks started asking about it, and then you guys started asking about it," Olsen-Doolan said.
The new legislation wasn't intended to inconvenience or upset anyone, she said, adding “we love our Canadians and we want you to come visit!"
The point, she said, was simply to ensure that all drivers in Florida carry licences written in a language that police officers can read and understand.
Lawmakers didn't take into account the fact that Canadian licences are already in English, and the department is now seeking "to make it clear that a license already written in English would be acceptable," she said.
However, the earliest that change could happen would have been March, when the next legislative session begins.
"There's a lot of things, criminally, that take our attention but you should have the proper documents in case you were to get in a crash or something like that," Olsen-Doolan warned.
An international driving permits costs of $25 and is available from the Canadian Automobile Association. No test is required, but applicants must fill out a form, be 18 years of age or older, and must provide a photocopy of both sides of their valid Canadian driver's licence and two passport-type photos.