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Attempted traffic stop confuses southern Utah tourists

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Posted at 9:40 PM, Feb 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-26 11:49:20-05

ST GEORGE – Utah Highway patrol troopers spiked the tires on a car driven by Japanese tourists originally thought to be drunk drivers. The family in the car told police they didn’t know what to do when they saw the flashing lights.

Troopers spotted the car during a DUI blitz early Saturday morning. Trooper Dan Ferguson said the car was going about 35 mph on Interstate Highway 15 through St. George, which caused alarm. When the trooper tried to pull the car over by flashing his lights, the driver kept going.

“The vehicle then sped up to 75 miles an hour in a 65-miles-per-hour zone,” Ferguson said. “So now it went from going too slow to going too fast. Still using both lanes of the highway.”

Troopers continued to follow the car because they didn’t know what type of situation they’d stumbled upon.

They chased the car about seven miles, then spiked to stop the car. Troopers moved in with guns drawn.

“The female driver had exited the vehicle and was standing near the rear of the car.” Ferguson said. “You could tell almost immediately that she was confused, not sure what she was supposed to do.”

Ferguson said he could hear the woman speaking English, but couldn’t understand what she was saying. Through the use of an interpreter, troopers found out the husband, wife and 7-year-old son were on their way to Bryce Canyon and had arrived in Los Angeles Friday morning and rented the car.

Ferguson said it was a cultural misunderstanding, and one they run into often, as foreign tourists visit the state and national parks in Southern Utah.

“They have a different way of doing things,” Ferguson said. “A lot of them say that ‘they didn’t know that we were supposed to pull over. You’re supposed to come along side of us and wave us over. That’s when we know that you want us.’”

The federal government (link: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Foreign-Visitors-Driving.shtml) and foreign relation groups (link: https://www.internations.org/usa-expats/guide/driving-in-the-united-states-15646/the-united-states-traffic-regulations-2} urge travelers to review the rules of each state they plan to visit, and foreign travelers are required to present a driver’s license to rent a car.

UHP troopers decided not to cite the driver for evading police, but she may be cited for unsafe driving, going too slow on the freeway.