Canadian driver's licences valid in Florida, after all

Florida authorities say a new law that quietly went into place Jan 1 requiring Canadians and other non-U.S. residents to carry an International Driving Permit has been put on hold.

CAA recommends Canadian travellers purchase permit

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said Thursday is was putting a law on hold that would have required non-U.S. residents carry an International Driving Permit. (Jim Damaske/The Tampa Bay Times/Associated Press)

Florida authorities say a new law that quietly went into place Jan. 1 requiring Canadians and other non-U.S. residents to carry an International Driving Permit has been put on hold.

The law would have required Canadians driving in the Sunshine State to purchase a permit at the cost of $25 Cdn.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles issued a statement on Thursday announcing the statute may be in violation of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, and therefore the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) will defer enforcement of law.

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, adding that her department "hadn't really thought about the Canadian angle."

'Talked to everyone in Canada'

Initially, news of the law triggered confusion among Canadian travellers planning to travel to Florida.  

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) is in charge of administering IDPs. Terry Fox, manager of its legal advisory department, said offices had been inundated with applications, with over 900 submitted today.

Doolan also said her department had been flooded with calls.

"I feel like I’ve talked to everyone in Canada, which is a good thing," she said.

Doolan said the Florida government would now be working with stakeholders, like those in the tourism industry, on how to "modify" the law " so everybody's happy.

"We looked into it legally and we're just going to hold on it and then try and get some language in there to clarify it," she said. "It was a good intent but we just need to polish it up a little bit."

But despite Florida saying the law won't be enforced, CAA told CBC News it's recommending travellers purchase a permit.

The association said it was unclear whether Florida Highway Patrol was requiring all police departments not to enforce the law, or only those that were willing to comply.

Rental cars confusion

There were also mixed messages concerning how the law would affect those who wanted to rent cars.

When contacted, Budget Rent A Car said its official stance on the matter was that all Canadians will be expected to present an IDP along with their official driver's licence and credit card upon renting a vehicle.

But a staff member at Budget Rent A Car at Miami International Airport said they had heard of no such law and that a Canadian licence would suffice.

With files from The Canadian Press