Beyond the obvious reasons of wearing your kill switch, or engine cut-off switch, as of April 1st, 2021, it is now a law per the United States Coast Guard.

While it may seem unlikely, it does not take much to get knocked off a boat. This year a North Carolina boater found himself treading water 40 miles offshore after a wave knocked him off his vessel. While luck was on his side and he was found by another vessel who stopped his runaway boat (full story here), it is best to play it safe.

What Is A Engine Cut-Off Switch/ Kill Switch?

An engine cut-off switch is a simple device which is either tethered or electronic and completes the electronic circuit to the motor when connected. If a boater falls off, or the connection is broken for any reason, the circuit is incomplete therefore “killing” the motor.

Understanding The New Law

The new law will apply to operators of recreational boats less than 26’ in length on “all navigable waters” when the boat is being operated above displacement, or no-wake speed.

Exemptions include: 

  • Boats greater than 26 feet in length
  • The main helm of the covered vessel is installed within an enclosed cabin
  •  The vessel does not have an engine cut-off switch and is not required to have one.
  • The boat is a government or commercial vessel
  • Boats with less than 3 hp of thrust
  • Boats built prior to January 2020 that are NOT equipped with an emergency cutoff

For a full list of FAQ’s, exemptions, and a more in-depth explanation of the law, please visit the US Coast Guard website here.

What are your thoughts on the new law?

*Please visit the US Coast Guard Website and contact your local boating and/or wildlife office for a full set of regulations in your state.