CAA to refund international driving permits bought in Ontario

Travellers who purchased an International Driving Permit — as a new law in Florida requiring Canadians and other non-U.S. residents to carry one came into place — in south-central Ontario can get their money back, CAA says.

Automobile association still advises Canadians to buy permits if going to Florida soon

A new Florida law that quietly came into place on Jan. 1 required that non-U.S. residents, including Canadians, would need an International Driving Permit to drive in the state. Authorities said Thursday, however, that Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of the law. (Melissa Nelson/Associated Press)

Travellers who purchased an International Driving Permit — as a new law in Florida requiring Canadians and other non-U.S. residents to carry one came into place — in south-central Ontario can now get a full refund, CAA says.

Florida authorities said Thursday the new law was put on hold, but not until after news of the requirement triggered confusion among Canadian travellers who planned trips to the state. 

The Canadian Automobile Association, which was put in charge of administering the IDPs at a cost of $25 Cdn, said they were inundated with at least 900 applications on Thursday.

On Friday, CAA South Central Ontario (CAASCO) announced it would be offering full refunds until March 15 for those who bought permits and passport photos on Feb. 13 and Feb. 14.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this issue may have caused," it said in a statement. "We understand the frustration and confusion among travellers and are offering a 30-day period to obtain a full refund."

The policy only applied to the South Central Ontario branch of CAA, however, and it is unclear whether the other eight clubs will also offer refunds.

Still, CAASCO is recommending Canadians and snowbirds heading to Florida soon to purchase a permit, just in case.

"While enforcement of this new law in Florida may not take place at least for now, we continue to recommend for those Canadians travelling to Florida in the next few days, to consider obtaining an IDP," CAASCO said Friday.

Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said Thursday the new IDP requirement, which came into effect on Jan. 1, may be in violation of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. Therefore, the Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of the law, it said.

As before, non-resident drivers only need to carry a valid licence with their name on it, issued from their home country.

Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety, told CBC Radio Montreal's Homerun that the law's original intent was to have documents available in English "so law enforcement can provide for public safety."

"We get people from all over the world and it's difficult for law enforcement here because unfortunately we don't speak as many languages as we'd like to," Doolan said Thursday, adding that her department "hadn't really thought about the Canadian angle."