Simon Calder's Helpdesk: Can you clear up a disagreement over International Driving Permits in California?

 

Q. Can you clear something up for me please, a colleague is insisting that I need to purchase an International Driving Permit to drive in California; I have been going to California for nigh on 20 years and I have a full picture driving licence which has always been sufficient. Would you recommend getting an IDP for the future? It seems a bit of a money-making racket to me.

Ed Dunham

A. You are right, and your colleague is wrong - you don't need an IDP. But their confusion is understandable. Your photo licence is still perfectly acceptable (though it is always worth carrying the green "counterfoil" in case you are asked for it). You can drive anywhere in America on a full UK licence - always have been able to, always will be. That, at least, was my understanding until the start of this year, when the state of Florida suddenly started demanding an IDP. It was apparently a well-intentioned move to ensure all licences were in English so officers could understand them, with unintended consequences. First, any foreign driver without one was threatened with jail. Then the state authorities said that although the law would remain on the statute until it could be repealed, it would not be enforced. Finally, last month the state governor signed the bill rescinding the requirement. 

The IDP is still useful in a number of developing countries. A money-making racket, though? Hardly, at just £5.50 a time for a complicated document. If ever you feel the need for one, then theaa.com/getaway/idp is the place to start looking.

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