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Florida became the first American state to introduce a new law on January 1st 2013 required all overseas visitors to hold an International Driving Permit.
Unfortunately the introduction of the new law was not well publicised and has not had a smooth introduction. The larger car rental firms have now caught up and updated their terms and conditions to require renters to present their IDP when collecting their cars which is now causing problems for British tourists as few carry an IDP.
On Feb 14th, Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles announced that they would defer enforcement of the legislation. The law has not been withdrawn so a British driver without an International Driving Permit would still be breaking the law but would not be prosecuted for it. The press release openly encourages visitors not to bother with an IDP saying:
"Florida's doors and roadways remain open to visitors – Highway Safety agency reassures visitors that travel to the Sunshine State is business as usual.”
"Earlier today DHSMV released a statement to media around the world that the Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of a law that requires visitors from outside the United States to have an International Driving Permit to drive lawfully in Florida.”
However concerns have been raised that by breaking this law, the driver would not be properly licenced to drive the vehicle and this could affect insurance cover.
For now we're left in the position that technically you should have an IDP, but you won't be prosecuted for not having one but you might not be able to collect your hire car without one and you may not be insured without it. In a messy situation like that, the only sensible thing to do is to cover yourself by getting the International Driving Permit before travelling to Florida.
** Update ** The law was repealed in April 2013 but took a little longer to be removed from the car rental companies terms and conditions.
International Driving Permits are available over the counter at larger post offices, last for a year and won't break the bank at £5.50. You need to take your full driving licence, fill in an application form, provide a passport sized photo, the fee and your passport will work as proof of ID.