Breath Test FAIL!

Auckland, New Zealand

Since the topic of drinking came up a few times over the past few entries let’s let Greg share with you a little story about something that happened to us in New Zealand and an important lesson he learned from it:

Greg: Remember how we got this amazing invite to have Christmas with a Kiwi MasterChef contestant and his family?

So yeah, duh, we did that.  This dinner lasts several hours.  Several.  As we’ve said, Kiwis are really nice people and if you befriend a really nice person and they invite you over for a feast…well you should expect to be there a while.  At the very beginning of the afternoon I had 2 glasses of wine with everyone.  After that, I called it quits because I was the one who was going to drive us home that evening and you know, better safe than sorry right?  Besides, they had Coke Zero so it’s not like I was deprived or anything.

20101224-NZ-road-trip-w-Ronni-4 Christmas treeLike I said, we were at this dinner party for a long time.  We had hors d’oeuvres, we had dinner, we had dessert, we talked, we mingled, it was great.  Everything you could possibly want as a traveler invited into the home of a local for Christmas.  Hours flew by.  Tiffany even made key lime pie from scratch, or perhaps I should say from crumbs, as you previously saw I was involved in that.

So it’s pushing midnight before we’re ready to leave.  My mother, who has joined us for the holidays, asked if I’m Ok to drive.  It wasn’t a reflection on how I’m was acting or anything, it’s just my mom.  She asks.  She’s proactively safe and good like that.

“Yeah mom, I’m fine, I haven’t had a drink since before we had food and only 2 glasses then.”

So off we went to head back to our hotel, but on the way we see some Christmas lights and honestly, we’re all missing the decorations at home so we decided to drive a little bit of Auckland to see the how Kiwis decorate their homes for the holidays.

About a half hour later I made a left turn and a cop pulls up behind me and flashes their lights…

New Zealand police car

“Oh man, I think they want us to pull over.  What the heck did I do?”

I stop the car.

Officer – “Sir, I saw you driving erratically and I would like to administer a breath test to you.  You may not refuse.”

OK, this sucks but fine, whatever.  How do I do this?  Kinda new at it here, blow in the tube?  Keep blowing…keep blowing…and we’re done.

digital alcohol breath tester

Then I saw the screen:




I am in a foreign country, I know these guys are tough with drink driving laws.  MY MOTHER IS IN THE CAR!  What the hell, I feel fine.  Seriously, seriously fine!  This is garbage, there is no way I’m driving drunk. I mean come on it really has been hours and I really had almost nothing to drink and why the heck do I sound like one of those MADD sponsored commercials right now oh man I am so screwed…

And then I see the second line of the screen…


Which together means…


And as realization dawned on me the first thing I thought was, “oh…oh that’s just cruel.”

You see, in New Zealand the legal drinking age is 18 but from 18 – 20 there is a “zero tolerance” policy on drink driving.  (That’s what they call it by the way, vice “drunk driving.”)  In other words if you blow ANY alcohol in your system while driving and you’re under 20 then you’re busted.  Our younger NZ friends said they can’t take cold medicine and drive the next morning because a residual could still be in their blood stream which would result in their arrest.

I, however, am over the age of 20 and was well, well below the legal limit for my age of 0.08% (told you I was safe than sorry).  The residual alcohol from the wine triggered the system so if I had been a minor I would have been in trouble.  That’s what “FAIL MINOR” means…that if I am a minor I fail but otherwise I pass.

The cruel part is in how it’s displayed on the screen…I mean, come on, the first word is “fail”  FAIL!  I passed and it said fail!  Not cool man.  Not. Cool.

The cop checked my license for my age, wished us a merry Christmas and went on his way.  I didn’t care that I passed with flying colors, Christmas light viewing time was now officially over.  Straight home we went.  Thank-you baby Jesus for making me paranoid and stopping drinking early.  Thank you so very, very much.

I still don’t know why the cop thought I was driving “erratically” but could it have been due to the fact that it’s Christmas, we were looking at lights and in this country we drive on the opposite side of the road than what I’m used to?  Possibly.  Could it be he simply wanted to breath test someone and just said that I was driving oddly?  Also possible.  I didn’t ask.  As the locals would say, “I was scared-as bro.  I got the heck outta there.”

It made me think though.  A lot.  It made me look up drunk driving laws for some of the countries out here.  Because the last thing I ever want to do is assume I know the law, think I’m acting within it then find out too late that I wasn’t.

Important thing to consider before you go out partying in a foreign country.


Drinking too much in French Polynesia was never much of a possibility because you’d go broke long before you’d get drunk.  Seriously, see for yourself by clicking on Land ho!


About the authors

Greg and Tiffany are traveling around the world on sailing yachts and keep a video blog of their (mis)adventures. If sailing to Tahiti on a 44 ft sailboat, 3-day delays for wine tastings, getting pooped on by seagulls, opening coconuts with dull machetes, sailing past tornadoes and ukulele Christmas carols are for you, then check them out at!

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15 Responses to Breath Test FAIL!

  1. ROFL!!!

    Alter boy to Drink Driver….stands to reason I guess. :0)

  2. In Mexico the local cop got my seventeen year old son drunk then offered him a chance to drive his motorcycle. Even my son wasn’t that drunk. It’s VERY loose here.

    • Tiffany says:

      Yeah, Mexico is a crazy place! I miss it though… No one over here knows how to make a proper burrito!

  3. dangerman says:

    whoever told you to switch to the CZero was a Bloody Legend:

    (love the accent in the ad, BTW)

    • Greg says:

      Ok one thing we probably won’t blog about is the awesome quality of NZ advertising. Seriously, their ad departments have a lot more hits than we in the USA. The above link is a great example. Also, Dan’s right, that’s pretty much how they talk. 😉

  4. What a great blog . . . I love adventure. And, I love to read about places that others travel to. But, more, I love to see young people enjoying life. I’m looking forward to your next port of call. And, you did have me thinking about the laws of other countries . . . Norway, for example, has strict liquor laws, not too mention, the fact that alcohol is expensive. They setup police barracks everywhere to check people for drunk driving.

    I’m sending my daughter your blog link . . . she has an English boyfriend so she is frequently making trips across the pond, and they are traveling together to other countries. I believe Thailand is in the horizon for now.

    BTW, thank you for your service to our country. It is greatly appreciated.

    • Greg says:


      We’ll be in SE Asia rather soon and we’re doing the prep work now so if your daughter has any questions we’ll be happy to help. My sister married a Brit and Tiffany and I spent two years apart while in the service so I feel for them. Long distance can be difficult sometimes. Worth it for the right person and still difficult.

  5. Erica says:

    I think I would have had a heart attack on the spot. Granted, I think that having 2 beers technically puts me over the cap even though I don’t feel anything on 2. Texas is thinking of putting a soft cap at .06. If that is the case, I won’t ever be able to go grab a beer with a friend!

  6. Abby says:

    You had me!! I can’t believe you got pulled over. So ridiculous. I can’t decide how I feel about that law for minors… I would have died if I blew and saw “fail.” Died.

    • Tiffany says:

      I know! It was really freaky… I’m just so happy that we had friends who had warned us about the “fail minor” thing…

  7. Craig Hill says:

    You need to make allowances for the Kiwis. They have to live in Australia’s shadow all the time :-)

  8. Pingback: Greg stars as “The Nanny!” | Coast Guard Couple

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