'Confused' Japanese tourists pulled over at gunpoint after high-speed chase by Utah Police

Couple did not understand US traffic laws and sped up to move out of the police car's path
  • @heatheranne9

Two ‘confused’ Japanese tourists led Utah police on a high-speed chase that culminated in being pulled over at gunpoint near the Arizona border - because the couple did not understand US traffic laws.

Utah Highway Patrol officers conducting a drink-driving sting operation spotted the couple's car swerving erratically between lanes early on Saturday morning.

Instead of pulling over when officers put on their sirens and followed the vehicles, the driver put her foot down on the gas and sped away, Lieutenant Brad Horne said.

A dramatic chase ensued as police officers in three patrol cars followed the vehicle at speeds of up to 75mph. "It was literally red and blue lights in every direction," Mr Horne said. 

Other officers closed the interstate in both directions, shut down off-ramps and placed a set of tire spikes on the highway to stop the car.

The vehicle came skidding to a halt seven miles away when the car tyres hit the spikes and police quickly closed in with their guns drawn.

Expecting a stand-off, officers demanded the driver surrendered and climbed out of the car. But instead of an armed criminal emerging, police found themselves facing a 40-something Japanese woman who knew little English and could not follow their commands.

Mr Horne said at this point it became clear “we had a language barrier problem," adding that the woman's husband, who was in the front passenger seat, also did not speak English.

The couple were accompanied by their seven-year-old-son, who was sat in the back seat "just crying and really kind of traumatised," Mr Horne said. "I think they were terrified."

With the help of a Japanese-speaking police officer reached by phone, the couple explained they had travelled from Japan to California on Friday and were headed to Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park on vacation.

The woman told officers she had become confused when police flipped on their lights and sirens and sped up to get out of their way. She also kept apologising for crashing the car, not realising they ran over tyre spikes.

"That's kind of a surprise, lights and sirens are a pretty universal thing," Mr Horne said. "We deal with tourists all the time, particularly from Japan and we've never had that problem before."

No charges have been brought against the pair.

Additional reporting by Associated Press