U.S. Coast Guard starts enforcing kill switch law

WASHINGTON – Starting Thursday, operators of recreational boats less than 26 feet long are required to use an engine cutoff switch, commonly known as a “kill switch.”

The U.S. Coast Guard started enforcing the law April 1, according to a prepared statement by the USCG. The law was passed by Congress.

Boaters must use the engine cutoff switch (ECOS) and associated ECOS link (ECOSL). The ECOS and ECOSL, typically a lanyard-style cord connected to the ECOS, attaches the boat’s operator to a switch that shuts off the engine if the driver is displaced from the helm.

USCG officials pointed out each year the agency receives reports of recreational boat operators who fall or are suddenly and unexpectedly thrown out of their boat, which can lead to injuries and deaths. During those accidents, the driverless boat continues to circle the person(s) in the water, eventually striking them, often with the propeller.

The dangerous runaway boat scenarios put the ejected operator, other boaters and marine law enforcement officers and other first-responders in serious peril.

The key word in the recently implemented law is “use.” The kill switch must be attached to the boat’s operator when the boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed.

That part of compliancy shouldn’t be a problem. An overwhelming majority of recreational boats manufactured have had kill switches installed standard for decades, according to the USCG.

Boaters are encouraged to check the U.S. Coast Guard website for more information on this new law and other safety regulations and recommendations.

Tommy Abbot, tournament director for high school and college bass tournaments in Louisiana, noted within the past week he believes that state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will focus their attention on the new law of the land. He also pointed out that while the law stipulates a kill switch isn’t mandatory at idle speed, Louisiana High School B.A.S.S. Nation and Louisiana College B.A.S.S. Nation rules require the kill switch to be attached and in use whenever the big motor is in gear.

Abbott said the tournament officials’ focus from here on out will be on the use of PDDs and kill switches.

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