Kill switch law was effective as of April 1, 2021.
There is an important new federal law concerning the use of kill switches on boats, also known as engine cut-off switches (ECOS). The law requires that operators wear their kill switch when at planing speed while operating boats less than 26 feet in length. This is a federal law that was passed by the U.S. Congress as part of Section 8316 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021.
What is an Engine Cut-Off Switch? An Engine Cut-Off Switch is a safety mechanism used to shut off propulsion machinery when the operator is displaced from the helm.
Kill switches have been installed in the majority of recreational vessels over the last decade, but there has not been a law enforcing the use of this safety feature until April of 2021. The kill switch consists of a cord or lanyard that is attached to the helmsman (captain/driver) around their wrist or body. The other end is attached to a button/switch on the boat with a special clip.
The driver at the helm is responsible for their safety, the safety of all passengers, as well as the safety of other boaters on the water. There are a few ways to attach the kill switch to the driver of the boat – the lanyard or cord clipped to the life jacket of the driver or the lanyard or cord secured around the wrist of the driver. The driver of the vessel needs to feel comfortable and secure ensuring a great day on the water.
Check out this VIDEO from Freedom Boat Club explaining how to use a boat switch kill lanyard for safety.
There are many boating accidents per year involving an operator and/or passengers who fall overboard for a variety of reasons. The USCG now requires that operators of vessels equipped with an ECOS use the device at all times. Wearing an ECOS lanyard or cord not only ensures that your boat stays close if you fall overboard, but it also prevents you from being run over by your own boat. When the operator isn’t wearing a lanyard or cord, the unmanned boat tends to turn in fast circles and anyone in the water is at risk of being struck by the propeller. Wearing the lanyard reduces the risk of a propeller injury or death.
It is always a good idea to check with the state boating agency where you are boating to determine how this new USCG rule applies locally. For more information on this requirement, visit the USCG Engine Cut-Off Switch FAQ page.
(Remember to inspect your boat lines and dock ties and replace as needed. Boat lines and dock ties weather and weaken over time.)