Ridiculous!This just in from the department of red tape you didn't know existed: Snowbirds from Mississauga and other Canadians must now carry an international driving permit in addition to their regular licence when driving in Florida.
The new state law quietly came into effect on Jan. 1, but no one in the tourism industry really noticed until a British journalist called this week.
"We realize that tourists will be an unintended side effect of this new law," said Kathy Torian of Visit Florida, who just got the heads-up from "the folks" at the state highway department. "We're trying to help spread the word to the tourism community around the world."
Millions of international visitors drive in Florida each year, and legislators thought the international driving permit — a standardized document that translates the licence details into 10 different languages — would help law officers interpret foreign licences.
The new law applies to any non-resident, including all those Canadians getting ready for March break.
The Canadian Automobile Association, while recommending Florida-bound travellers obtain a permit, is urging the state to modify or waive the law for Canadians, who make up Florida's top international tourism market. (More than three million Canucks visited last year.)
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles confirmed it is looking to "clarify the law" so that English-language licences would be acceptable. The next legislative session starts in March, and the soonest any change might happen would be July 1, said spokeswoman Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, adding, "we love our Canadians."
Until the law is clarified, Canadians without the permit would technically be considered "driving without a valid licence," she said.
"Theoretically you could be arrested," she said. "Law enforcement officers use discretion, and if they pull you over because the tail light is out, most of them, as long as you conduct yourself appropriately and everything, probably would not choose to be super tough on you. But I can't speak for that, because there are 400 law enforcement agencies in Florida."
Canadians can pick up an IDP at a local CAA office for $25, plus the cost of passport photos. It's valid for one year.
Snowbirds already nestled in the sunshine state for the season must apply by mail, as the permits can only be issued in Canada.