A Japanese family has a story to last a lifetime, after accidentally becoming involved in a high-speed chase in Utah caused by a cultural misunderstanding and the language barrier.

The pursuit began at 1:00 AM on February 22 near the Utah/Arizona border when the police spotted a car going 37 miles per hour and swerving. Suspecting a drunk driver, the Utah State Police followed the car and attempted to pull the driver over, but that is where the problems start. The area was already being monitored by police for impaired drivers, so three cars attempted to stop the car, while others shut down the highway. Instead of pulling over, the driver began acting erratically by weaving across lanes and by speeding up to 75 mph and then slowing down to 40 mph.

After the car hit spike strips about seven miles down the road, the police were amazed when instead of a drunk driver, a Japanese women in her 40s exited the car. "She would walk forward, backward, spin around - obviously she had no clue what we wanted her to do," Lt. Brad Horne, Utah Highway Patrol's DUI unit commander, told The Washington Post. Upon closer inspection, the police found the woman's terrified husband and seven-year-old son in the car as well.

None of the family spoke English, but after tracking down a Japanese-speaking officer, the police learned that the woman had no idea about American traffic laws. When she saw the lights, she thought she should speed up and swerve to get out of the their way. Nobody was hurt, and the only damage to the car was the flat tires. The family was driving to Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. The police don't plan to press charges.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 138 Comments
      SquareFour
      • 1 Year Ago
      I don't get how one can just rent a car and drive on public streets without having any knowledge of the local traffic laws, etc. Shouldn't there at least be some sort of primer or something required explaining the important things one needs to know about driving in that country?
        Cayman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @SquareFour
        Since driving laws are set by the State and not the Feds and vary from State to State, would you also require that primer for anyone traveling out of their home State? That would make renting a car even more of a pain.
      Conspiracy theory
      • 1 Year Ago
      Interesting, I guess it could happen. I'd like to think I'd spend a few minutes researching if I was going to drive in Japan though. http://www.japan-talk.com/jt/new/police-lights-in-Japan
      Pat
      • 1 Year Ago
      I've only driven a car in two foreign counties (USA and Cuba) ... and let me tell you, I make extra sure that I know what I'm doing, I don't speed, and I know how to spot a cop. And, while I don't trust the police in either of those countries, I certainly wouldn't try to run away from them --especially the American ones.
      ipco.mc
      • 1 Year Ago
      Why was she driving without understanding the rules of the road in the USA!!!
        Pat
        • 1 Year Ago
        @ipco.mc
        Isn't that what most Americans do? (I'm being funny of course, I just couldn't resist)
      AcidTonic
      • 1 Year Ago
      The problem is the speed limit is set lower than what we are all capable of just so these kinds of people can co-exist. Every time I travel I'm stuck on a 55mph road in the boonies that would be a 70mph road here in Michigan. I think to myself, "Wow, we are just crawling out here, you'd think someone with a brain could safely go faster". Articles like these prove I'm just wrong. Some people are using 100% of their cognitive ability just to go 20mph slower than our already insanely low speed limits. I.E. Stupidity. The problem is that it's not a fair trade off.... I'd much rather just ban idiots like that from driving through stricter testing at the DMV, then raise the limits for those of us with a brain. I always have to dial back my capabilities so that those with less skill can use the same road.... But it's just sacrilege to ask people to speed up so I can walk instead of tip-toe. I'm tired of the mindset that it's actually worth the slowdown to let everyone drive. It's not. I'm tired of not being able to move at my own pace without tripping over idiots who only tip-toe. Then having slow drivers flip you the bird as you pass them on the right since they block the fast lane doing 5 under. I'm not wrong for moving at my desired speed. It seems today with people on cell phones you already have to weave through traffic just to go 70mph in a 70mph zone. Then to be considered "wrong" on top of that is just going too far. When someone can't cook food on a stove we don't limit the other people who know how.... We make those who can't cook stay away from stoves and let everyone else do as they please. Why is the road any different?
      River
      • 1 Year Ago
      How about a little common sense. Police car behind you with lights and siren- pull over and stop. When I travel to a foreign country I take a few minutes to look at the driving regulations. They were lucky to get away with only some flat tires.
      Renato Piereck
      • 1 Year Ago
      At least the Utah cops were able to see through the cultural barrier and not charge her with any crimes. A few years back a Brazilian family was deported and the father had to spend their vacation money in bail after he attempted to bribe a FL State Trooper for a minor infraction. Bribing the police is expected in Brazil, it's the norm there. The State Trooper arrested the driver on the spot. without issuing him a warning. A bit of cultural sensitivity would go a long way, the cop could have told him bribery is not accepted in the US, and any further attempt would land the driver in jail. None of that happened.
        MotionDesigner
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Renato Piereck
        I don't see how the cop was in the wrong in that case. Bribing a cop in Brazil may be a cultural norm, but I'm sure the people of Brazil still know deep down inside that bribing a cop, although expected and normal, is wrong but they do it anyway. What makes the Brazilian think the cultural norms in Brazil are the same as the cultural norms in the States?
      Rob Wilson
      • 1 Year Ago
      I want to watch the Japanese version of COPS tv show. If speeding up and swerving is the norm, I'm sure there are some interesting traffic stops.
        Den Kuma
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Rob Wilson
        She didn't tell that how Japanese traffic law works. I don't think in Japan works that way either. She just didn't know that flashing lights means pull over. Problem is she drove way too slow, she thought she needs to speed up,
      cbamft
      • 1 Year Ago
      Is getting a DUI in Utah even an option?...
        Kevin Gregerson
        • 1 Year Ago
        @cbamft
        Culturally they don't believe in alcohol. The beer you get has half the normal content at Bars. I have friends whom I bring wine from California to regularly because it can't be shipped in the normal way. It's amazing when the states still encourage bootlegging.
      fran
      • 1 Year Ago
      Need for speed rivals FTW!! *cop on the radio* deploying spike strip on a 10-44. Lol
      MistyGreen
      • 1 Year Ago
      Um, I'm not totally up to date on international licensing, but why are we NOT pressing charges for someone driving without knowing how to drive on American roads? The woman was obviously terrified, and I can't blame her for her actions, but they need to be held accountable for the very act of driving here. If I were ever to vacation to Japan or India or the UK or Libya I would expect to be held responsible for knowing how to drive there, if I planned to drive. Maybe that's just cause I grew up in a country where road rules are common and expected, idk. But Japan? Really?
        Mike Pulsifer
        • 1 Year Ago
        @MistyGreen
        That's a bit harsh. With that said, before I went to the UK, I studied the hell out of their signage and their associated rules. Even after that, I'm still a bit bewildered by their no parking/standing markings. When over there, there was a news report that suggested that it even trips up the locals.
          ksrcm
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Mike Pulsifer
          Don't worry, everybody is dazed and confused when it comes to no parking/standing signs. That's why so many Europeans ignore them :)
      gregmlr
      • 1 Year Ago
      How did they manage to fly to the United States and obtain a car without being able to speak any English?
        SAM
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gregmlr
        The same way I've flown to Europe and Asia and rented cars without knowing the local languages.
        rcavaretti
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gregmlr
        I can't believe you actually asked that question. Leave the double wide behind, and explore this great big planet of ours.
        Cayman
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gregmlr
        The same way Americans and Europeans fly to Japan without being able to speak Japanese. You figure it out.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gregmlr
        [blocked]
        beanrew
        • 1 Year Ago
        @gregmlr
        No this is a great question, who cares who it is or where they are from, lets just read more into it: How were they able to drive to the airport in Japan safely? Public Transit? Must have common sense to use public transit, the likes of which is not displayed in this article. boils down to common sense is not all that common
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