Concerns abound that tourism could be hampered by driver license law for foreigners, repeal expected

Foreign visitors angry over 'crazy' driver permits

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - Phil Newman comes from Quebec to Delray to drive.

Golf balls.

"Put up with some of our winters, and you'll look forward to coming here," said Newman.

And while he's here, Phil Newman also has to drive. His car.

So when he and his Canadian friends heard they would all have to get a special permit to drive during this year's snowbird season, they almost hit their golf balls into the trees.

"At first there was a lot of panic. The phone rang a lot and people said hey, you'd better get your international driver's license," said Newman.

He never did get one.

The law went into effect January 1st, and was intended to help police interact more easily with non-English speakers.

But the Florida Highway Patrol said they wouldn't even enforce it after outcry led some to wonder whether it violated the Geneva convention's stipulation that driver licenses are to be honored.

Jose Acevedo is the head of the Concierge Association of the Palm Beaches.

He says he's worried that the law could lead some to not even visit Florida anymore.

"There's a lot of competition. The islands, Las Vegas. Florida is still a destination, but we don't want to hamper that," said Acevedo.

And State Sen. Maria Sachs, who did support the bill this stipulation was included in last year, says she reports repealing it and says it might hint at a new mindset in Tallahassee.

"The mood of this state, the mood of the people in this state, is they want moderation," said Sachs.

Newman is just glad driving won't be a problem.

Neither golf balls, nor cars.

"I couldn't see myself being singled out and thrown into the slammer because I had a Canadian license," said Newman.

The House is scheduled to vote Wednesday, the senate is scheduled to hold a committee vote on Thursday.

Print this article Back to Top