The Sunshine State, Florida, has recently rolled out a new law that effectively makes foreign tourists illegal drivers unless they are carrying an international driver’s permit (IDP) issued from their home country.
The new law, which went into effect largely unnoticed on January 1 2013, has inadvertently affected hapless tourists from English-speaking countries, including the UK and Canada, unaware of the need to carry the appropriate documentation while driving in Florida in the US. As well as unwittingly putting themselves at risk of breaking the law, the new legislation may also make it hard for foreign drivers to collect insurance claims if involved in a car accident while driving in the area.
The new state law was passed in an attempt to ensure all drivers in Florida hold a valid license translated into English. Florida’s state highway police have since stated that they would not enforce the law in the short term, and have encouraged local law enforcement agencies to follow their lead, citing a possible conflict the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic. Nonetheless, theoretically the law exists, and although the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have said that they are looking to amend the law for countries that issue driving licenses in English as a matter of urgency, the possible repeal won’t take place until sometime in March.
Foreign tourists accounted for nearly 15 percent of Florida’s 87.3 million visitors in 2011, while around one million Brits visit the Sunshine State each year.
The permit, which costs £5.50, is issued by the AA and RAC by post. They are also available to buy in person at selected Post Offices, although only 88 branches across the whole of the UK.
So, if you are planning to head to the Sunshine State for a holiday during the spring break; despite the fact that local law authorities have been ‘encouraged’ to not enforce the law, the AA currently strongly advises that you obtain an IDP if planning to drive in Florida before the outcome of the possible repeal is fully realised. It could be the best fiver you’ve ever spent.
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On a brighter note…
The weather in the Sunshine State right now is making sure that the state is living up to its name. With an average daily temperature of 20ᵒC, a possible high of 26ᵒC, a possible of 13ᵒC, and the sea water temperature coming in at an inviting 24, Florida is a great place to escape the UK for some guaranteed springtime sunshine. The idea of swapping home shores for sunnier climes is made all the more tempting when taking into account that spring seems to be slow to arrive this year, with predicted temperatures for March across the UK due to be near or below average, and toward the end of the month we still won’t have seen the back of frosty nights – unusual for the time of year, and arguably about as welcome as a British tourist driving around Florida without an IDP.