Quebec snowbirds fear Georgia's English-language permit law

An email circulating among Quebecers headed to Florida has snowbirds worried about a Georgia law requiring drivers to carry an English-language permit or face stiff fines.

State law says all driver's licences must be written in English

An email circulating says a law in the state of Georgia requires anyone caught without an English-language driver's licence could get heavily fined. 1:46

An email circulating in Quebec has snowbirds worried about a Georgia law requiring drivers to carry an English-language permit or face stiff fines.

The email warns Quebec drivers headed to Florida to watch out for roadblocks on highways in the southern U.S. state, saying police will issue $500 tickets to anyone with a French-language driver's licence.

The email is signed by “Donald” at the RCMP — with no last name and no rank.

Representatives of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) — which has seen a flurry of requests to purchase international permits — say the email notice probably isn’t real.

The law, however, does exist.

Since 2009, Georgia state law has required that all motorists holding a driver’s licence written in a language other than English be in possession of an International Driving Permit (IDP).

It is the only state in the U.S. with this requirement.  

However, George Iny of the Automobile Protection Association says his group hasn't received any complaints, and the likelihood of Georgia state police issuing a ticket for Quebec drivers is very slim.

'If you look at a Quebec driver's license, you can pretty much figure out which part is your name, which part is your date of birth, and where you live, and who it's from,” says Iny.

“So I don't think it would present any unusual difficulty to law enforcement in the United States."

The CAA's U.S. counterpart — the American Automobile Association — says it is in contact with Georgia officials to have this international permit requirement removed for Quebecers.

"The reason why you would want a requirement like this is for people coming from other nations with driver's licences that you not only can't read, but maybe don't completely recognize," says Inay. "So asking for an international licence would be an extra step, perhaps."

An International Driver’s Permit, available at all CAA branches, costs $25 and is accepted at most border crossings.


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