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Confused tourists: US traffic laws bungle Japanese tourists, trigger pursuit

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Confused Japanese tourists, on their first visit to America, found themselves caught between a misunderstanding of the rules of the road and an increasingly irritated Utah Highway Patrol police force.

According to a report Tuesday from The Associated Press, via ABC News, the tourist's erratic driving touched off a seven-mile pursuit, in which the family claimed they “did not know they were being pulled over.”

When the Japanese driver finally pulled the blown out rental car over at 1 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 15 near the Utah-Arizona border, both he and his wife were pulled from their vehicle, at gunpoint, while their young son watched the action from the back seat. Police were forced to lay down spike strips to stop the car.

The pursuit began when the couple’s car was spotted by Lt. Brad Horne going just 37 mph in a 55 mph zone and swerving between lanes. The Utah Highway Patrol’s DUI unit commander said he “figured the car was being driven by a drunken driver.” Horne turned on his lights and siren to pull the car over.

But instead of moving to the shoulder, the Japanese couple decided to swerve a little more, fluctuate their speed between 40 and 75 mph, and weave around the lanes for seven miles. Three more patrol cars joined the pursuit, highway exits were blocked off and spike strips eventually were the only thing that stopped the tourists.

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

Police surrounded the vehicle and demanded the driver exit. Instead of a criminal exiting with his hands over his head, a Japanese woman in her early 40s emerged, and started to wander about. She was then pulled to the ground by police.

“She would walk forward, backward, spin around — obviously she had no clue what we wanted her to do,” Horne said. “I think they were terrified.”

Authorities don’t plan to pursue charges.

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

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