Florida jail threat from British drivers after law changes

British holidaymakers in Florida risk jail for driving without insurance and a permit after an little publicised change of state law.

The new rules stop foreigners from driving if they do not have an International Driving Permit (IDP) – and if they do not have one, they are driving without insurance.

Previously, UK motorists have been able to drive using their UK licence.

The ruling was introduced in January 2013, but has come “out of the blue” because it has not been publicised, said Rosie Sanderson, head of the AA’s International Motoring Services section.

As thousands of families jet to Florida for school half-term holidays, motorists and car hire firms are confused by conflicting advice from the police and state government.

According to Ms Sanderson, the AAA, America’s equivalent of the AA, was not aware of the law and had to speak to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to confirm the details after the AA made enquiries.

She said the AA first became aware of the new regulation after a customer raised the issue.

“I understand that the new law was introduced because of the growing number of visitors with driving licences that are not printed in English, making it difficult for police to confirm if they are valid,” Ms Sanderson explained.

“As a result, the requirement for an International Driving Permit (IDP) has been introduced which is affecting drivers from English-speaking countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, despite the fact that their licences are already in English.”

The AA has always recommended that drivers take an IDP if they plan to drive in America as some car hire firms insist on them. Now, many firms will not rent a car to anyone without an IDP as they fear they could break the law despite the government agreeing not to enforce the rules for British drivers.

IDPs are available at designated Post Offices, which issue them on behalf of the AA. Drivers must take both parts of their licence, their passport and a passport photo to make an application. The licence is issued immediately and costs £5.50.

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