On December 4th, the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act passed through Congress and was signed into law by President Trump. Each year, this appropriations bill passes through congress to fund the USCG and it often carries marine related riders. This year along with USCG spending, a provision requiring that boat manufacturers, dealers, and distributors ensure that boats of 26 feet or less overall and whose engines are capable of more than 115 pounds of thrust be outfitted with an engine cut off switch. This will put more engine kill switches on more small craft which will hopefully reduce deaths and injuries from “circle of death” incidents.
While the bill requires that engine cut off devices be installed, it does not require their use. The United States Coast Guard has quietly advocated for the requirement of engine kill switches since the invention of such devices in the early 1970s and also to make their use ma. However, despite repeated lawsuits the industry has been resistant to the requirements.
The above video is a good example of how fast an engine kill cable can stop a boat and prevent injury to the involved boaters. In 2017 these two collegiate anglers were ejected from their boat when a part of the steering system failed. The boat comes to a quick stop due to the engine cutoff being engaged when the driver is ejected.
While statistics are not kept on deaths and injuries related to runaway boats (boats where the occupants are ejected from the vessel while the vessel has propulsion), the USCG has periodically analyzed their data and found dozens of deaths and injuries they believe could have been avoided through the use of engine cut off devices. And while several states require their use there is a lack of survey data on actual usage numbers. Most of these injuries and deaths occur in small bass boats, tiller-steered dinghies, and other small outboard craft.
The hope is that increased placement of engine shut off devices, along with continued education will lead more boaters to use these safety devices. While the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act brings us a step closer to safer boating, PassageMaker would like to remind you to always utilize your engine cutoff device, or to install one if you don't have one onboard.
For more information on engine cutoff switches check out this BoatUS Foundation test of engine cutoff devices.
For more information on the history of kill switches and the fight for regulations check out this article History of Lanyard Kill Switches for Recreational Boats: Inventions, Regulations, Accidents, and Trials from Propeller Safety.com.