Federal law requiring certain boaters to wear cutoff switches takes effect as prevention measure for injury or death

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Credit: WINK News.

For people with boats 26 feet and smaller, a new federal law will go into effect Thursday that will require recreational boaters to wear their engine cutoff switch link while operating on a plane or above displacement speed.

Along with the size of the boat, the law will also depend on the year the boat was made.

The U.S. Coast Guard hopes this puts fewer people in danger out on the water. It’s a new law geared at preventing runaway boats and injuries.

Mike Mikolaizyk enjoys a good day out on the boat but often doesn’t wear the engine cutoff switch.

“A lot of people over the years kind of get around that because we just attach that up to our key, so we don’t really use it,” Mikolaizyk said. “It’s a good thing, I think.”

The engine cutoff switch is a lot like the treadmill cutoff switch but for a boat. Boaters are supposed to wear it when they’re on a plane. Being on a plane above displacement speed increases the risk of sudden movement and the risk of being thrown away from the wheel, or even off the boat.

If that happens the engine would cut off and stop the boat. That’s similar to when the lanyard for a treadmill disconnects from it if someone falls while using one.

“I can just clip it on to my clothes and enjoy my day,” Mikolaizyk said.

The Coast Guard says, every year, it gets reports about people falling off or getting thrown off their boat. The boat might keep going, leaving someone stranded in the water. Or they get hit, most times with a propeller.

The law applies to “Covered Recreational vessels,” which means any motorized boat with three or more horsepower that is less than 26 feet in length and takes effect on April 1, 2021.

The Coast Guard hopes this new law helps prevent these types of injuries and deaths.

“I guess starting tomorrow, we’ll be wearing ours,” Mikolaizyk said.

MORE: U.S. Coast Guard – Engine Cutoff Switches, Federal Law Information

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