Foreign drivers who want to rent or drive a car in Florida have been given some breather from a new state law that went into effect Jan. 1.
The Florida Highway Patrol will not be cracking down on drivers from abroad who don't have an International Driving Permit until officials determine if the new requirement violates an international treaty on road travel.
During the 2012 legislative session, the Florida Legislature amended section 322.04 of Florida Statutes to require international visitors, or those who don't have a U.S. driver's license, to also have an IDP along with their driver's license.
An IDP is a translation of an existing driver license into another language and has to be obtained in the home country.
The law reportedly was changed so that state law enforcement officials would not be faced with license documents in languages they could not read.
Now, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has learned that the amended state law may violate the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (1949), an international treaty to which the United States is a signatory.
"Treaties to which the United States is a party pre-empt state laws in conflict with them," the department stated in a news release.
The FHP will defer enforcing the new requirement "until a final determination of the alignment of the amendment with the treaty can be made."
Visitors from abroad who wish to drive in the state will be required to have a valid driver's license from their country of residence.
"However, the FHP will not take enforcement action based solely on the lack of an International Driving Permit," the news release added.
When news of the new state law broke out last week, many snowbirds from outside the country who have been coming to Highlands County, especially from Canada, were upset about it.
Potentially violating an international treaty is not the only question the state is battling.
Last week, state officials said the amended statute did not exempt valid non-U.S. driver's licenses that are in English, and they needed to clarify from legislators, when they meet next month, if that exemption was in place.
Based on that, the Highlands County Sheriff's Office had decided to hold off from enforcing the permit requirement until the question was answered.
In its news release, the department of highway safety reiterated that they "will be working with the Florida Legislature in the coming months to ensure that the law reflects Florida's rich history of welcoming our friends from around the world to the Sunshine State."