Boating safety is a major concern for many people, and rightly so. If you are ever thrown from the helm of your boat, what do you think will happen? Your boat’s engine will keep running until it runs out of fuel! When you’re out in the middle of a lake or ocean, safety should be your number one priority.
The new Engine Cut-Off Switch Law went into effect this month and boat owners need to know about it. The law requires boaters to use an engine cut-off switch on all personal watercraft (PWCs) and most powerboats less than 26 feet in length. This will help reduce the problem of runaway boats and propeller strikes, which account for about 4 percent of all boating accidents and injuries in the United States annually. It’s important for boat owners to understand this new legislation so they can stay safe while out on the water!
Engine cut-off switches can help prevent these tragedies from happening by automatically stopping the engine when an operator falls overboard. Here’s how they work! Also called a “safety lanyard” or the “engine kill switch,” it automatically cuts off power to your boat’s engine if you get thrown from the helm for any reason; ensuring that your boat doesn’t end up running into something like another boat or dock while trying to recover control. The system mainly consists of a switch that is mounted to the boat’s console (or on the engine itself for tiller outboards) and a clip that must be inserted into it for the engine to run. The clip is then attached to the operator’s life jacket, clothing, or on the wrist with a flexible lanyard, and whenever the driver leaves their post at the helm, they will be pulled away from it and when this happens, they lose contact with their engine which immediately stops running. There is also an option to have a wireless lanyard which cuts power to the engine once the driver goes overboard.
Reasons to Have an Engine Stop Switch on Your Boat
As a boat operator, you want to make sure that your safety is always the priority. One way to do this is by installing an engine cut-off switch on your boat. We’ll give you great reasons why having such a device installed on your vessel can help keep you safe and out of harm’s way!
1. Engine cut-off switches prevent accidents and save lives
A sudden stop can throw a person from the helm area or completely out of the boat, and when this happens torque from a spinning propeller will cause the boat to go into a tight turn. This becomes hazardous for the ejected operator as well as anyone and anything else in the vicinity. In 2019 alone, 172 people were injured or killed by these accidents, which resulted in 35 deaths and 155 injuries.
According to Verne Gifford, Chief of the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety Division, “This new rule is intended to make the use of these life-saving devices second-nature for boaters, just as seat belt laws have for motorists.” Engine cut-off switches provide protection against these potential hazards by allowing operators to quickly shut down engines before they’re thrown overboard.
2. It’s now a law that applies to all U.S. waterways
The new use requirement took effect on April 1st 2021 and applies to all U.S waterways, with a $100 fine for first offense, a $250 fine for second offense and a $500 penalty for third offenses. State authorities may choose how they want to enforce these laws but it is now compulsory that qualified vessels have an engine cut-off switch installed when out on any body of water within the United States.
3. For every boater’s peace of mind
Many people enjoy boating, but safety is always a concern. This may seem like an unnecessary precaution for some, but think about it: The engine cut off switch is a safety measure that allows you to have peace of mind while having fun in the water. Just think of it as one of your boat safety essentials! Make sure you get yourself a life jacket and safety lanyard to attach to your boat before heading out on the water!
Engine Cut-Off Switch Quick FAQs
What is an Engine Cut-off Switch (ECOS)?
An Engine Cut-Off Switch is a safety mechanism used to shut off propulsion machinery when the operator is displaced from the helm. This prevents injury, loss of vessel control or expensive damage to equipment.
Who needs to use an Engine Cut-off Switch?
All operators of recreational boats less than 26’ in length that have an Engine Cut-Off Device installed. It does not apply to government-owned vessels.
What boats need to have an Engine Cut-Off Switch installed?
Engine cut-off switches are now required on all personal watercraft and recreational boats with motors capable of 115 pounds of static thrust (over 3 horsepower) and under 26 feet in length.
This law requires that all boats manufactured after January 2020 be equipped with an engine cut-off switch. Even if your boat is not currently equipped with an engine cut-off switch, it may soon be subject to this federal regulation.
Do I need to keep the Engine Cut-Off Switch Link attached at all times?
No. The rule applies when the boat reaches planing speed (which means you will need to have your cut-off switch and lanyard attached before pushing the throttle forward). It is not required that you have the lanyard attached when the vessel is idling or performing docking maneuvers. However, it would be best practice to have your safety lanyard and cut-off switch on standby in case of an emergency.
Operating a boat with an Engine Cut-Off Switch can be a great way to increase safety for yourself and your passengers. Spending time on the water can be a great way to enjoy the weather and get some fresh air. Boat safety essentials you will need are a must for you to enjoy the water without having a worry, so there’s no excuse not to invest in them.