It’s been five months since I had a LifeSafer Interlock device installed in my vehicle.

It was a requirement of my license restriction to have an interlock device installed and used successfully for six months. Now that I’m in the home stretch, and have dealt with a LifeSafer Interlock device for almost six months, here is my final review of the device and the company.  There are plenty of options in most jurisdictions, but if you are leaning towards going with LifeSafer, here is one man’s experience.

– Convenience of shop locations (in Northern Virginia)
– Initial customer service and installation
– Average/competitive pricing

– Chronic staffing issues and related customer service
– Dated technology of the device
– Inconsistency and long warm-up time of the device

Why I chose a LifeSafer Interlock device

Honestly, it was the convenience factor. The local LifeSafer shop in my town is located in the same office complex as the VASAP branch office. They sealed the deal with the price quote – no installation fee, and a $101 per month monitoring fee, which included insurance.  The other companies all charge around the same amount – some charge an installation fee with a lower monthly rate, but at the end of the day, it’s all going to balance out to about $100 per month if you have a six-month requirement.

LifeSafer Interlock device price rating: C (they are all just about the same price)

Installation of the LifeSafer Interlock device

The installation was pretty straightforward. I detail the process of getting a restricted license here, but I had to pay my fines and court costs, then get my license restriction paperwork filled out by VASAP and then signed by a judge. Next, I received an interlock referral from VASAP. Finally, I called LifeSafer to make an appointment. They were able to fit me in two days later, so the time without a license after I completed my jail sentence was minimal.

The installation took about an hour, which included a decent orientation by one of the regional managers of the company. We watched a DVD on how to use the device, and then he gave more tips and answered questions. It was here that we learned about other things to avoid just before and while driving that could trigger the device: pizza, bread, mouthwash, toothpaste, fruits, chewing gum, and using windshield wiper fluid.

LifeSafer Interlock device installation rating: A

Use of the LifeSafer Interlock device

To say that the technology on these devices is a bit dated would be an understatement. There is no digital display, so all you know is if you are blowing a 0.00, somewhere between a 0.01 and a 0.02 and a 0.021 or higher. The first is a pass, the second is a warn and the last is a fail. The first two do not count against you, the last one is where you either get in trouble or have to prove that it was a mistake.

The device takes FOREVER to warm up most days.  I sat in my car waiting for it to tell me to blow for anywhere from 1-4 minutes. Other times, it randomly warms up in under a minute. There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason to this.

The device is also very finicky when it comes to how you blow into it. Like the other devices, it forces you to do a blow/hum rhythm. This is supposed to prove to the device that a human is blowing into it, as opposed to some sort of attempted mechanical override. It can be frustrating when you think you have the rhythm down, and you still get an abort light, only to blow the exact same way during the retest two minutes later and have it pass.

Another issue is when the device supposedly detects alcohol, even when you have absolutely have not been drinking or doing any of the things they recommend you avoid. On two occasions, I received a warning light during rolling retests.  The first time, I had drunk a canned cold brew coffee (which contained sugar) about 30 minutes before driving. Even though I passed the initial test when I started the car, a warning came up five minutes later.

I freaked out and called LifeSafer and my case manager. My case manager told me she would note my call, and that I had nothing to worry about, as it was not a fail. But what if it was? At that point, your horn and lights start going off and you are locked out of your vehicle. You have to pay a LifeSafer technician to come unlock your vehicle…and you have to explain yourself to your case manager. I met two people in the LifeSafer office who had been locked out because they forgot and used their windshield wiper fluid. The fumes from the fluid came in through their vents and were detected during their rolling retest.

Another time I received a warning for absolutely no discernable reason. I had not drunk anything alcoholic in weeks, and that morning, I had consumed nothing but water. I passed my start test but received a warning on the rolling retest. To this day, I cannot explain that one, and it definitely caused me to lose confidence in the device and the fairness of the punishment.

My recommendation to make the use of the LifeSafer interlock device easier is to purchase a professional breathalyzer.  If you have ANY doubt that you might fail a test, use the other device first. If you blow above the limit needed to start your car without issues, you simply don’t start your car. I recommend the AlcoMate Premium AL7000 device. This device is approved by the DOT for law enforcement field use and is used by the DOD. I’ve used it for the duration of my probation.

LifeSafer Interlock device use rating: D

LifeSafer Interlock customer service

Customer service provided by LifeSafer started out positive but steadily decreased as my months went on. The woman who assisted me with my appointment was very compassionate, professional and helpful. She went out of her way to treat me like a human, not a criminal. The manager who did my orientation was also very compassionate and helpful.

The first three recalibration appointments also went well. Technicians were friendly and efficient, and again, treated me like a human, not a criminal.

However, several incidents happened over the next two months that really took down the initial goodwill. On my third appointment, I showed up fifteen minutes early only to find the shop closed and locked. A technician came out of the shop and informed me that I “just made it” because he was about to leave. Excuse me? I had an appointment set a month ago! He explained that the technician for that day called out sick, and he came over to fill in. However, there was no notification from LifeSafer that the shop was closing before all of the appointments were complete. He ended up reluctantly helping me, but I saw him turn away two other customers.

This was infuriating because most of us take time off work to make these appointments. In addition, the device locks you out if you go a few days beyond your appointment, and then you have to pay to get towed to the shop and go before your case manager to explain why you missed the appointment at risk of getting dinged for a violation.

The fourth month, the technician again called out sick on the day of my appointment. However this time, the replacement technician had the decency to call me and ask if I could come in earlier. Luckily, I could.  Then on the fifth month? The technician AGAIN called out sick on the day of my appointment. This time, someone from the LifeSafer call center called me to reschedule. The reschedule date was on the last possible day before I would be locked out of my device, so I was lucky that I could make that one.

I think this shows a chronic staffing issue on the part of LifeSafer, which puts clients in danger of inconvenience at best, and at worst, the stress of having to deal with towing companies and case managers. Of course, these issues would be covered at their cost if the fault is on the company’s staffing issues, but it’s still a whole lot of stress for the customers.

We previously wrote a bit about customer service issues with interlock providers. Long story short, they are contractually and legally REQUIRED to provide good customer service, and if you have the right to file an official complaint with your local VASAP office. VASAP is legally required to investigate and follow up on official complaints against providers.

LifeSafer interlock customer service rating: D

At the end of the day, the interlock requirement is what it is.

It’s far from a perfect process, but as we pointed out previously, it’s not going anywhere. It works to lessen the chances of a repeat offense, despite the imperfect technology and sometimes unfair and suspicious procedures. As you use your device, you will train yourself on how to avoid problems – ALWAYS have water with you, and drink lots of it. Brush your teeth 30 minutes before driving and drink lots of water. Don’t eat most foods while driving. Wait to use your windshield wiper fluid until after the rolling retest. Stop drinking or drastically cut back, because hangovers do cause test failures.

You just need to survive the length of your requirement.

Overall rating for LifeSafer Interlock: C

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