Florida introduces new driving permit law

by Ray Clancy on February 15, 2013

Florida introduces new driving permit law

People moving to live and work in Florida may be unaware that they need an international driving permit, driving organisation the AA has warned. A new law in Florida means that foreign drivers must take an International Driving Permit if they want to drive but many are unaware of the rule that was introduced at the beginning of the year.

AA International Motoring Services is advising travellers to make sure that they obtain an IDP before they go, otherwise they won’t be able to hire a car when they get there. Indeed, no foreign driver can drive in the state without the IDP. Rosie Sanderson, head of the AA’s International Motoring Services team, said that this ruling came ‘out of the blue’ and has not been well publicised. However, there is conflicting advice, since some car hire companies were unaware of the law too.

The penalty for infringing the law is strict and a foreign driver found to be without an IDP will be regarded as not having a valid licence and could face imprisonment or a citation demanding a mandatory court appearance. Rosie Sanderson said that even the AAA, the American equivalent of the AA, hadn’t been made aware of the law and had to confirm it with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles following the AA’s enquiry.

‘We were first alerted by a customer querying the introduction of the new regulation. I understand that the new law was introduced because of the growing number of visitors’ licences that are not in English, making it difficult for police to confirm their validity,’ said Sanderson. ‘As a result, the requirement for an International Driving Permit (IDP) has been introduced which is affecting drivers from English speaking countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, despite the fact that their licences are already in English,’ she explained.

Quote from ExpatForum.com : “If I have a valid Mexican Driver’s License, will this be accepted in the United States, by law enforcement, etc.?”

‘The AA has always recommended that drivers should take an IDP if they plan to drive in the USA since some car hire companies insist on seeing one. Our website advice has been updated to point out that it is now compulsory in Florida and strongly recommended elsewhere in the USA,’ she pointed out.

The AA recommends that anyone planning to drive in Florida should arrange for an IDP immediately. In the UK it is simple as they are available at 88 designated Post Offices which issue them on behalf of the AA. Applicants need both parts of their driving licence, their passport and a passport sized photograph and the IDP can be issued over the counter for £5.50.

Sanderson added that Florida state laws are ‘unforgiving’ and any foreign driver caught without an IDP could find themselves being treated harshly although it’s not clear how harshly they would be dealt with.

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