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Florida to Canadian theme park fans: 'Take off'

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Published: February 14, 2013 at 8:44 PM

The State of Florida is making it harder for Canadians to drive in the Sunshine State, and that's upsetting theme park fans north of the border.

Welcome to Florida sign
"Welcome to Florida! Unless you're from Canada and don't have the newly correct papers…"

A new law this year in Florida requires that all visitors from foreign countries must carry an international driving permit in addition to their local driver's license when driving a car in Florida. In the past, Canadian drivers had not needed the international permit and were allowed to drive in the US while carrying just their Canadian licenses. (For what it's worth, when we visited Canada two summers ago, we drove around British Columbia on our US licenses. We didn't need an international permit, either.)

Why the change? "Security," of course. An international driving permit translates license information into 10 languages, helping local authorities understand the personal information on licenses issued by foreign countries. Of course, one wonders why Florida police officers would need a translation of the English-language licenses from all those Canadian provinces that aren't spelled "Quebec." [Let's try this as an easy way to translate Canadian English to Floridian English: Swap the "eh" for "y'all" and we're good to go, okay?]

Theme Park Insider reader Kathy McPherson alerted me to the change, emailing me a Toronto Star article about Canadians' reaction to the new law.

"Our local CAA [Canadian auto club] offices are going crazy because this is the only place you can get them," McPherson wrote. "We are heading to Florida in a couple weeks and will have to line up and get ours before we go."

Today, the Florida Highway Patrol reacted to the uproar in Canada by announcing that it won't enforce the new law against Canadian drivers with English-language licenses, at least for the time being. But that doesn't apply to local law enforcement, and some car rental companies are continuing to insist on the international permit to rent to Canadian visitors. So many Canadians who want to visit Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando will need to keep queuing for the permits, or else risk not being pulled over when they drive in Florida (assuming they're bringing their own cars down or can rent one in Florida despite not having the international permit).

Florida tourism officials told The Star that they're hoping to convince Florida lawmakers to change the law when the legislature meets again next month.

Readers' Opinions

From 85.150.173.168 on February 14, 2013 at 8:56 PM
As an EU driver I now have to g out and buy an international drivers license?
Great, less money to spent in the US for me then.
Florida law is made by scared little idiots. Grow up and deal with terrorism in an adult way like the rest of the world does.
Home of the brave, my ass.
From Tony Duda on February 14, 2013 at 10:36 PM
The local Tampa news tonight reported on this and said that this new law will NOT be enforced. The law will be reviewed and rewritten during the next legislative session.

NO ONE IS GOING TO BE ARRESTED!!!!!!!

http://www.wtsp.com/news/topstories/article/298359/250/Snowbirds-happy-intl-driving-permit-not-enforced

See above news report.

From 84.56.75.36 on February 15, 2013 at 2:36 AM
My favourite statistic about September 11 is that more people died in excess car accidents than through the actual terror attacks within i think 2 years (not exactly sure about the timeframe). Why? Simple, driving cars is far more risky than flying and many people switched from planes to cars afterwards. Risk perception got completly out of control there and it still haunts us today.

On the bright side, this law might uninentionally save some Canadian lives by pushing them to fly instead of driving :-).

From Tom Rigg on February 15, 2013 at 5:11 AM
So, at least in the US, an international driver's license is only around 15 bucks. I don't think that is going to break anyone's bank. I think this a mountain out of a mole hill sort of situation on both ends. Florida is blowing a non issue way our of proportion as they tend to do. But, come on Canada, it's a few dollars and a little bit of your time. I don't think it has anything to do with our specific dealings with terrorism. It might just be that there are so many international visitors to the state that it's hard to keep up with the different licenses and this simplifies the process.
From 99.226.40.182 on February 15, 2013 at 6:52 AM
As a Canadian who goes to Florida quite often, it isn't so much being arrested for not carrying an International Drivers Permit, or IDP, that I worry about. My fear is more that, in the unfortunate event of an accident, the lack of the proper paperwork might be used against me in the United States by insurance companies not wanting to pay, or people suing each other or the like. For now I think I will be lining up and paying, but here's hoping that this inane law goes away before I have to renew next year!
From Brian Emery on February 15, 2013 at 8:08 AM
This is what happens when you have crazy republicans in change… Why not add some gerrymandering and limit voting times and fewer voting machines with this new law…

I mean, who wants visitors from a neighboring country anyway… Spending their monies here in the USA… Let’s make it harder for them…

From Anon Mouse on February 15, 2013 at 8:44 AM
The hysteria over the international driving permit is ridiculous. So people don't want one? It's a international driving permit!!! Yet Florida and Republicans are called backwards for insisting on the permit. Let's heed the international community because the international standard is too onerous. Hilarious.
From Brian Emery on February 15, 2013 at 9:05 AM
If Canada is a Friend of the USA and lets Americans drive in their country, Why not let Canadians drive in the USA with a Canadian license?

Why enact a State law for this, when the Federal Law says they can drive in the USA.

And I never called Republican's backwards.. Even if they are, I never said it…Even if they tried to steal the Floridians vote by not having early voting… And limiting voting places and hours… Creating 8 hour lines… I can go on but I digress...

Every time I am in a Theme park and I met a visitor in line from another country, I thank them for visiting the USA. Why not embrace the visitors here spending their monies and not make it harder for them to drive.. We are not talking about a visitor from China… It’s Friggin Canada..

From Anon Mouse on February 15, 2013 at 9:24 AM
If the standard is everyone does it so let's keeping doing it this way, then it is a shame.

I never thought we'll be talking about voting irregularities, but maybe they learned something from the Democrats. Really!!!

From 167.181.12.111 on February 15, 2013 at 9:38 AM
Hey! Welcome to the Sunshine State for your international vacation! Here's your first dark ride: the Tunnel of DMV Horrors!
From Brian Emery on February 15, 2013 at 9:39 AM
Just answer my question… Why not allow Canadian’s to drive in the USA like we can drive in Canada with a USA license…

It is not a standard – It’s a New State law… New….
Let’s regulate really stupid things and forget about the important things… Like voting rights…

I was making a point about where priorities are in a badly run state.

From Anon Mouse on February 15, 2013 at 9:48 AM
Why? Why not?

Why not have Canada update their policies to match what Florida is doing? You know they will respond. That's the way it works, but you're already stupid. Florida already indicated they will change the law. The law as passed will be changed.

A state law is their standard. I don't know what is really important over other more important things. Driving happens every day. Voting happens once in a few months or years depending on the election.

What's the point? I still don't get your argument.

From Brian Emery on February 15, 2013 at 10:51 AM
So the whole country of Canada must change for 1 state in the US… Due to a law that will make things more difficult for a visitor from Canada to spend their vacation time and monies in the state of Florida.

Yes, typical republican response – shove our opinions down other’s throats…

My point is simple - why make it more difficult for Canadians to spend their monies in Florida? Wouldn’t you want and encourage tourism? Again it’s Canada where we can drive freely with a US license – It’s a handshake between friendly countries.

And the voting thing is just an example of more BS Florida republican efforts to keep those subservient.

From Tony Duda on February 15, 2013 at 11:06 AM
The law was not anti-Canada, it applied to ALL foreign country's citizens who drive a car in Florida. The intent was to make sure all foreign driver's licences have an English language translation. Canadians have freaked out because of all the snowbird migration during the January to April time frame and the snowbirds did not know about the new law. Let me tell you as a Florida resident, we did not know of it either. I try to be aware of these types of things and never heard of it.

Now, because of the massive freak-out by the Canadians, there will be no required licence translations for those licences written in French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), German, Polish, Swedish... you get the point. All this just makes it harder for the police when they arrive at the scene of the 1000s of accidents that happen every tourist season.

From Anon Mouse on February 15, 2013 at 1:22 PM
"So the whole country of Canada must change for 1 state in the US"

No, they don't have to do a thing. I said they could respond if they wish; however, this is unnecessary as I already said Florida will change their law in response to the freakout from Canada. Idiot.

Typical Democrat response.... freakout over nothing.

Canadians can drive freely. Again, what's wrong with the International Driving Permit? Absolutely nothing. It's just a permit, not a driving test or anything else.

From Brian Emery on February 15, 2013 at 1:34 PM
Again the republican who is having trouble comprehending this new law and the effects on tourism in the USA, simply calls folks names instead of having an intelligent conversation…

Yes Typical… GOP (Group of Old People)… Wait one moment so I can swig down some Poland Springs.. hahahha

From Anon Mouse on February 15, 2013 at 1:54 PM
Typical Brian: Needs to bring politics into everything. Loves names calling and fails to see the irony.

BRIAN (Brain Retard In Actual Need).

Fails to see public safety need. Only wants money.

Marco Rubio is no old guy. Brian, open your eyes. Your bad eyesight is failing you.

From Brian Emery on February 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM
Yes saving the World from Nasty Canadian will cure everything…

I want money for what? I work full time, US Navy Vet (6 years of service), college graduate, Paid off every penny of my student loans, never got 1 penny of grants…

And no I never called you any name. Just made a reference to an outdated shrinking political group with no ideas except going to war with countries where there are so many weapons of mass destruction.

Is this John McCain I talking to? Is that you?

If you said Chris Christie I might respect you – but Marco.. hahahha Thx. I needed the laugh..

From Anon Mouse on February 15, 2013 at 2:17 PM
Brian: Huh? Is that a response? You make absolutely no sense.
From HANNAH CALLER on February 16, 2013 at 1:44 AM
It's just been deferred for UK visitors, Alamo are currently the only rental company that have said they will still let you hire a car without one though, it costs £5 in England, hardly gonna eat into your spending money, seems a bit pointless as our licences are in English though!!
From 2.126.56.166 on February 16, 2013 at 3:43 AM
Although they are inexpensive, I can't help feel its just a scam to leach yet more money out of us.. But that said I will be getting one as I am planning on visiting Florida next year.
From Tony Duda on February 16, 2013 at 10:14 AM
But Florida is not getting the money for issuing the IDPs. That is a local expense to the future tourists. How could it be a money scam by Florida?
From Sylvain Comeau on February 16, 2013 at 12:26 PM
This new law is an insult and hindrance to the many Canadians who pour millions of dollars into the Florida economy every year. Security? Come on. We're tourists, not terrorists. Florida is Canada's playground -- especially people from Quebec.
From nancy ziembo on February 16, 2013 at 1:39 PM
This is in partial reaction to the fact that Canadian drivers from Quebec have a drivers licence in French because they want to be different and don't really like the English very much anyway. Now, see what the result is? However, everyone in your federal, state and local governments are hot on the bandwagon of "security." There is much money in it and of course, the power that comes with it---just look at the gropers at the TSA when you fly.

I spent many years driving all over the world and never had a problem. The need for an international drivers licence was not an issue. It is just another stupid rule in the name of security. Florida is not alone. Europe is now pushing the same thing.

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