Confused Japanese tourists trigger highway pursuit

Feb 26, 2014, 5:48 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – The first night in the United States for a family of Japanese tourists ended with the parents being pulled from their rental car at gunpoint with their young son watching after their confusion about American traffic laws set off a high-speed pursuit in southern Utah.

The pursuit began at 1 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 15 near the Utah-Arizona border when the couple’s car was spotted going just 37 mph and swerving between lanes, said Lt. Brad Horne, Utah Highway Patrol’s DUI unit commander.

More than a dozen patrolmen were working the area in a special DUI operation, and Horne said he figured the car was being driven by a drunken driver. Horne turned on his lights and siren to pull the car over.

Instead of pulling over, the driver sped up to 75 mph and began driving erratically, he said. Her speeds fluctuated between 40 and 75 mph as she weaved across lanes and into the shoulder.

Soon, there were three patrol cars in pursuit with other officers closing highway offramps and setting tire spikes miles ahead, Horne said.

“It was literally red and blue lights in every direction,” Horne said.

The couple’s car skidded to a stop about 7 miles north of where the pursuit began after three of the tires deflated after hitting the spikes.

A patrolmen bellowed commands from a loudspeaker in his patrol car, telling the couple to exit and walk backward. Both directions of I-15 were closed as officers prepared to encounter hardened criminals.

Instead, a Japanese woman in her early 40s emerged.

“She would walk forward, backward, spin around _ obviously she had no clue what we wanted her to do,” Horne said.

Still bracing for the worst, officers approached the car with guns drawn and pulled the woman and a man from the car. That’s when they saw the couple’s 7-year-old son in the backseat and realized the family didn’t speak English.

The boy was crying, and the parents appeared nervous and confused, Horne said.

“I think they were terrified,” he said.

Realizing they were dealing with language and cultural barriers, and not a drunken driver or fugitive, officers changed their strategy, Horne said. One officer consoled the boy and reunited him with his parents as others worked to get a Japanese-speaking officer on the phone.

They found one in northern Utah who spoke to the couple and learned they had arrived from Japan on Friday morning and rented a car to drive from California to Bryce Canyon in southern Utah.

The woman said she had no idea what she was supposed to do when the patrolman put on his lights and siren, so she sped up to get out of the way. She kept apologizing for crashing the car, not realizing they ran over tire spikes, Horne said. Patrolmen took the family to a motel and wished them safe travels.

Nobody was hurt and no cars damaged other than the flat tires, he said. About a dozen law enforcement officers were involved in some way.

Authorities don’t plan to pursue charges.

Horne said the couple didn’t have Japanese driver’s licenses with them.

Horne said he’s encountered many tourists in his three decades working with the Utah Highway Patrol, but he’s never seen a situation escalate like this.

“Red and blue lights are a pretty universal signal,” Horne said. “Regardless of nationality and language, when we put lights on, people pull over and stop.”

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos talks to the media after Gov. Tony Evers addressed a jo...
Associated Press

Post-Roe differences surface in GOP over new abortion rules

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — When the U.S. Supreme Court repealed in June a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, Wisconsin’s 1849 law that bans the procedure except when a mother’s life is at risk became newly relevant. Republicans in the Legislature blocked an attempt by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to overturn the law. Yet there’s […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: August 18, 19th Amendment is ratified

Today in History Today is Thursday, Aug. 18, the 230th day of 2022. There are 135 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On Aug. 18, 1587, Virginia Dare became the first child of English parents to be born in present-day America, on what is now Roanoke Island in North Carolina. (However, the […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks during a news conference on April 29, 2021, in Las Vegas. S...
Associated Press

Nevada gov vows to codify order protecting patients into law

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday that if he wins re-election he would seek to codify in law next legislative session an order he signed that protects in-state abortion providers and out-of-state patients. “Governors are the last line of defense in protecting reproductive freedoms,” he said. “The buck stops with us.” […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Visitors review new Asus computer products at the Computex trade show in Taipei, Taiwan, Tue...
Associated Press

US to hold trade talks with Taiwan in new show of support

BEIJING (AP) — The U.S. government plans talks with Taiwan on a wide-ranging trade treaty in a sign of support for the self-ruled island democracy claimed by China’s ruling Communist Party as part of its territory. The announcement Thursday comes after Beijing held military drills that included firing missiles into the sea to intimidate Taiwan […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Seattle CEO who cut his pay so workers earned $70K resigns

SEATTLE (AP) — A Seattle CEO who announced in 2015 that he was giving himself a drastic pay cut to help cover the cost of big raises for his employees has announced his resignation. Dan Price, the embattled CEO of credit card processing company Gravity Payments, resigned Wednesday, The Seattle Times reported. Price stunned his […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Construction crews install new border wall sections seen from Tijuana, Mexico., Jan. 9, 2019...
Associated Press

Judge: Suit by group critical of immigration can proceed

A group calling for sharply limiting immigration has scored a legal victory in its federal lawsuit arguing the Biden administration violated environmental law when it halted construction of the U.S. southern border wall and sought to undo other immigration policies by former President Donald Trump.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Confused Japanese tourists trigger highway pursuit