We knew it was important news, but it is fair to say we did not know quite how big this news was going to be when we first published the February issue of Florida Homes and Travel (our newsletter for owners of vacation homes in Florida). When we received and published our clarification from the Florida Department of Highways and Motor Vehicle Safety last Monday that all international tourists would be required to carry an International Driving Permit issued in their own country with them at all times when driving, we unleashed a fire-storm.
The news was generally greeted with incredulity, disbelief and quite a lot of denial. We were even accused of orchestrating a scam of which we would be the beneficiaries! We had much bigger organisations than ourselves rubbishing our information, including competitors, the car rental companies themselves, travel agents – even the AA and Virgin denied its truth without bothering to gather their own evidence.
However, truth has finally prevailed, our story has been confirmed many times now and our customer centric priorities and dedication have been proven once again. We were even contacted by clients of competitors to thank us for bringing it to their attention because their own supplier had not alerted them, and in fact informed them that there was no such requirement!
Virgin Holidays has finally updated its website with the information. Unfortunately, they have key facts wrong; the law came into effect on the 1st Jan, not the 3rd; you need an International Driving Permit (IDP) not an International Driving Licence which is a very different thing; It is completely true that UK drivers can obtain an IDP from the AA – but completely false that they could also obtain an IDP from the AAA. The AAA is America’s AA, and issues IDP’s for American drivers to take elsewhere. The entire purpose of an IDP is that it is issued in the driver’s home country!
Alamo has finally issued updated its terms and conditions to us, requiring all international renters in Florida to be in possession of an IDP – although as yet, this is not clear from the Alamo’s UK website. So far, Alamo appear to be the only rental car supplier to have understood the ramifications although we have brought it to the attention of all of our suppliers.
The AA has also updated information on its International Driving Permit page to reflect the new law in Florida.
UK drivers heading out to Florida can obtain an IDP in person from the Post Office. It must be a ‘Crown’ branch, of which we believe there are only 88 in the UK. You will require the 1949 version of the IDP, you will need to present your Full UK driving licence (it does not matter whether you have the 2 part, the pink or the green versions, but if you have the 2 part you must take both parts), a passport-sized photo, the £5.50 fee and an identity document such as a Biometric Passport. The IDP will be issued there and then – this is quickest way for people travelling shortly to obtain the document.
If you have a bit more time, or can’t get to one of these Crown branches, you can obtain an IDP by post from the AA. This time you will require a photocopy of your original driving licence, a photocopy of the photo page of your Biometric Passport, a passport sized photo, the completed form, a self addressed envelope and the fee which is £5.50 for the IDP and £2.50 for postage and admin – totalling £8. There are additional options for priority service or overseas courier service. Please see this page for further information: AA International Driving Permit
We understand that the IDP is not quite so easy to obtain in other countries – we have been told that in Spain they cost 60 euros and take 3 months to be processed! In South American countries we believe the costs are even more. There also seems to be a real problem for Canadians who have been caught up in this because their driving licences are not exempted under the law, but it appears that a Canadian IDP is not recognised within North America :
IDPs issued by CAA are only valid outside North America. Canadian drivers license issued in French will require a valid Canadian IDP when driving within the United States.
Many people have expressed an expectation that when the ramifications of this law are fully realised there will be a change in the statute. There may be a case for this, however, this General Transportation Bill was already one that was providing clarification, modification and specification and tidying up of other laws that have previously been found to be a bit ‘woolly’ or badly crafted. To be amended, it will have to be proposed, added to a bill, and then that bill must pass in order for change to occur. Florida’s legislative session does not finish until mid-May, and most new laws (if passed and signed into law by the Governor of Florida who has a veto) will not take effect until July 1st at the earliest.
*Update from Florida’s DHSMV posted online 14/02/13:
During the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Legislature amended section 322.04, Florida Statutes, to require visitors from outside the United States to have an International Driving Permit in order to drive lawfully in Florida. This change took effect Jan. 1, 2013.
It has come to the Department’s attention that this requirement may violate the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949), an international treaty to which the United States is a signatory. Treaties to which the United States is a party preempt state laws in conflict with them.
Therefore, the Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of violations of the amended statutory section until a final determination of the alignment of the amendment with the treaty can be made. Non-resident visitors to Florida who wish to drive while here will be required to have in their immediate possession a valid driver license issued in his or her name from another state or territory of the U.S. or from their country of residence. However, the FHP will not take enforcement action based solely on the lack of an International Driving Permit.