14 February 2013 by Luke McCormick
A new Florida by-law means British travellers heading for the Sunshine State face stiff penalties if they lack the right paperwork for driving rental cars.
The new law requires every foreign motorist to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) while driving in the state. Those who fail to get the document in advance face the prospect of being turned away by rental car companies and if stopped by police, arrest and the risk of harsh penalties, including possible jail time.
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokeswoman, Kirsten Olsen-Doolan, told The Independent: "Customers that wish to drive in Florida without obtaining a Florida driver license will be required to have an International Driving Permit to accompany their out-of-country license. This applies to any vehicle, including rental vehicles."
If a driver is pulled over by Highway Patrol officers, or is involved in an accident, penalties for transgressions are harsh.
Ms Olsen-Doolan said that police who encounter British motorists driving illegally have two options: "Arresting the driver and taking him/her to jail, or giving the driver a citation with a mandatory court appearance."
The Association of British Travel Agents said in a statement: "We understand that Statute 2012/322.04 came into effect on 01 January 2013 but had not been enforced until now.
"It is now a legal requirement, when driving in Florida, for non-US residents to have in their possession an International Driving Permit in addition to the driving license from their own country.
"In addition, drivers from the UK will need to have both parts of their driving license (photograph and paper copy).
"As this new legal requirement is only just starting to be enforced, a number of car hire companies may not have updated their websites or literature yet with the new requirements.
"The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, have advised that should drivers of rental cars in Florida be involved in an accident, or traffic offence or any other reason for interaction with the Florida Highway Patrol, they will be required to have an International Driving Permit in their possession and if stopped, law enforcement may be applied."
If customers go into the post office in person, they will be able to obtain their permit immediately. For customers due to travel imminently, this may be the best option.