New engine switch cutoff requirements
A new boat engine cutoff switch law went into effect on April 1, 2021. The law requires individuals operating recreational vessels less than 26 feet long with an engine cutoff switch installed to use a lanyard or wireless engine cutoff switch link.
This law applies to all boats that currently have a functioning engine cutoff device installed at the helm, wirelessly, or on an outboard engine. It also applies to boats manufactured beginning January 2020.
Exceptions to this law include vessels where
- the main helm is within an enclosed cabin,
- the motor is incapable of 115 pounds of static thrust,
- or the vessel isn’t operating on plane or at displacement speed, for example, while fishing or docking.
The penalty for not complying is $100 for a first-time offense.
What is an engine cutoff switch?
A safety mechanism, the engine cutoff switch shuts off propulsion machinery when the operator is displaced from the boat’s helm. An ECOS link is the device that connects the operator to the engine cutoff switch. The link must be attached to the operator, the operator’s clothing, or the operator’s personal floatation device. The link, typically a coiled lanyard, may also be an electronic fob.
How does it work?
Sudden and forceful turns on boats can eject an operator from the helm area or off the boat. Once in the water, an operator could be in danger of encountering a spinning propeller, especially since unmanned boats often start traveling in circles at the point where the ejection took place.
If an operator wearing an ECOS link loses the helm, the boat’s engine stops immediately, allowing the operator to regain control. Once the operator reinstalls the link to the switch, the boat can be restarted.
Engine cutoff devices help prevent unnecessary accidents, injuries and deaths caused by a recreational vessel operator being unexpectedly displaced from the helm, including when the operator is thrown overboard. In that case, a runaway vessel poses a propeller-strike hazard to everyone in the water and a collision hazard to all other vessels on the water.
To learn more about the new law, check out the U.S. Coast Guard website for additional information and FAQ.
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