An Insurance Warning for Travelers

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Many Canadians enjoy vacationing outside of Canada, especially in warmer climates during the winter. We all know that purchasing travel insurance is a very good idea in case you require emergency medical care.

What about car insurance?

If you have a valid driver's licence you are automatically allowed to drive in other countries and your automobile insurance will cover you, right? Wrong.

Florida recently passed a law that quietly went into effect on January 1, 2013 requiring all non-US residents to carry an International Driving Permit when operating a motor vehicle in Florida. This means beginning this year any Canadian travelers in Florida who drive without first purchasing the permit are not licensed to do so. After a public relations backlash and arguably the violation of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic, Florida has suspended enforcement of the new law (although it seems not all rental companies or police officers have received that memo, and the law is technically still in place.)

Why is all this important?

Because you must be allowed to drive the vehicle you are driving to be fully covered. Someone with only a G licence in Ontario cannot get behind the wheel of a fully loaded tanker truck and expect to be fully covered. The situation in Florida should remind us all to ensure in advance that we are covered outside of Canada.

Ontario's Insurance Act provides that Ontario drivers are covered when driving in other provinces or within the United States at the level of benefits provided by either Ontario or the jurisdiction where the accident occurred, depending on the circumstances . This coverage does not extend throughout the globe. It is also questionable if this coverage would apply if you technically were not licensed to drive when the accident occurred.

Vacationers who plan to drive when outside of Canada should be proactive. In spite of Florida's apparent "suspended enforcement" you should still obtain an International Driving Permit to ensure you are properly licensed. If you plan to drive anywhere outside of the US and Canada you should find out if a permit is required.

International Driving Permits cost $25 and are valid for one year. You can obtain a permit or more information from CAA. Contact your insurance company and make sure you have a valid policy in place, or check with your rental company in advance.


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