WASHINGTON, March 28, 2021—Recreational boats less than 26 feet in length will be required to have an engine cutoff switch and lanyard in use beginning in April.
The switch and lanyard are designed to prevent runaway boats and the threats they pose, according to a U.S. Coast Guard news release.
The USCG will begin enforcing the law April 1.
The lanyard attaches the boat operator to the engine cutoff switch that shuts the engine off if the operator falls away from the helm, or are attached directly onto an outboard motor if the boat is operated by a tiller.
Wireless cut-off switches are also approved for use. An electronic “fob,” carried by the boat operator, turns off the engine if the fob becomes submerged.
Boats with a covered helm are encouraged to use cutoff switches and lanyards when operating on plane or at fast speeds. A switch and lanyard are not required for boats with enclosed cabins.
Boat operators who fall off or are thrown off their boat during operation have been injured or died when struck by a runaway boat, according to the release. Runaway boats also pose a danger to other boaters, marine law enforcement and first responders.
Engine cutoff switches were required in December 2019, but lanyards were not.
The new law requires the switch to be attached to the boat operator when the boat is in use except when docking, trailering, trolling or operating in a no-wake zone.