Florida Travel: Politician Responsible for Licence Law Debacle Apologizes

Update: see previous posts – February 14, 2013 Florida: Florida Highway Patrol Won’t Enforce International Driver’s Permit Rule, December 22, 2012 Florida: Passes Driving Law that Will Force Canadians to Carry an International Driving Permit on Jan.1/13

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Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) still recommends buying the international drivers permit but like the Florida Highway Patrol, local police have been informed not to enforce the law

CAA still recommends buying the international drivers permit but like the Florida Highway Patrol, local police have been informed not to enforce the law. Andy Newman/The Canadian Press

The man responsible for the legislation that caused cross-Canada panic ahead of March break wants to apologize to the Canucks that make up his state’s largest foreign tourism market.

“I work hard to try to understand bills and their unintended consequences,” Representative Ben Albritton told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday evening. “This one I just missed. I want to tell the people in Canada I am sorry.”

The intent of the law, which requires Canadians and other non-U.S. drivers licence holders to have an international drivers permit or be considered driving without a licence, was to make it easier for state troopers understand non-English licences.

He assured Canadians that the law would be reworded come the start of the next legislative session in March.

“Clearly, there was no negative intent,” he said. “If I messed something up, I am man enough to fix it.”

Local police in Florida have been notified that the Highway Patrol is not enforcing the state law, said Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles on Friday.

As far as car rental companies go “we’re getting in touch with the ones we can to let them know they can just continue to rent cars as they previously did.”

The CAA continues to recommend that Canadians travelling to Florida in the next few days obtain a permit — available for $25 from all CAA locations.

However, the CAA is also offering a refund for anyone who purchased an international driving permit and passport photos on Feb. 13 or 14. Customers have 30 days in which to claim their money, The Canadian Press reports.

Steve Kee, spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says that until the law is clarified by the Florida Highway Patrol, nothing should change for Canadians when it comes to insurance.

“In the interim, IBC strongly discourages any insurer from using the amended Florida statute as a reason to deny coverage on the basis that the non-resident driver was not authorized to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Florida,” says a statement Thursday from the IBC.

Despite the outrage expressed from snowbirds across the state, Olsen-Doolan says there is a silver lining.

In a state that has a problem with people not wanting to get driver’s licences at all, it’s “just fabulous” to have a group really concerned about “doing the right thing,” she said.

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