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Foreigners concered about Florida law

International permit
Posted at 10:36 AM, Feb 22, 2013
and last updated 2014-07-14 12:13:46-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL/CTV Canada) -- The state of Florida has backed away from a recent law change that would have seen Canadian drivers weighed down with another piece of baggage; an international driving permit.

At a Canadian Automobile Association office in Toronto the line was out the door; the result of lawmakers nearly 1,200 miles away here in Tallahassee, Florida.

During the 2012 session, Florida legislators passed a law that quietly went into effect January 1, 2013. It requires all foreign tourists to get a special international driver's permit, one that is written in a language police officers here can read and understand.

According to VISITFLORIDA, the state's official tourism agency, more than 89.3 million peopled visited Florida last year, including 3.3 million Canadians, and 1.3 million people from the United Kingdom.

"No one knows what to do," one driver told Canada's CTV network.

Kirsten Olsen-Doolan with the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles and Safety says the new law wasn't intended to inconvenience or upset anyone.

"They spent a lot of time down here and they're used to freely traveling across the border, folks from the UK already have their documents in English so I think the concern for them is why get additional documents if they're already in English," Olsen-Doolan said. "We're talking to the Legislature and hopefully we'll be able to work out something to accommodate their concerns and also address public safety which is what this was designed to do."

Florida Highway Patrol will "defer enforcement of violations of the amended statutory section" until lawmakers have a chance to take another look at the law when session begins March 5. They're expected to tweak the bill to "make it clear that a license already written in English would be acceptable."