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Avoid Cutoff Confusion

Dealers will likely have to discuss with their customers a new law requiring the use of engine cutoff switches in an effort to avoid confusion. Meanwhile, a new program introducing students in kayaks to on-water experiences in Ohio is a good model.

A new boating safety law is now in effect and requires the use of an engine cutoff switch on all recreational boats smaller than 26 feet. The Coast Guard has begun implementing the law, which was passed by Congress in the Elijah E. Cummings Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2020. As an industry, we need to first understand the legislation before we can help our customers.

With some exceptions, boaters underway and not connected by an ECOS or ECOS link could face penalties starting at $100 for a first offense, increasing to $250 on a second instance, and rising to $500 for continued violations.

The Coast Guard believes ECOS use will prevent runaway vessels and their potential threats because the engine is shut off if the operator is displaced from the helm. Typically, the ECOS is a cord attached to the cutoff switch at the helm, or on the outboard if tiller-operated.

Here’s where confusion is likely and, thus, clearly places the need for dealers and sales personnel to take time to explain this new law to applicable customers, noting

The law’s exceptions are likely to cause confusion:

• applies only to boats smaller than 26 feet

• applies only to engines capable of producing 115 pounds of static thrust (about 3 hp)

• doesn’t apply when the main helm is in an enclosed cabin

• doesn’t apply if the boat does not have an engine cutoff switch

• doesn’t apply if the boat was built before Jan. 1, 2020

There’s no doubt the Coast Guard determined there’s sufficient evidence that this action could increase boating safety. Indeed, with so many first-time boaters now plying the waterways, there’s a need to teach and emphasize safety at the dealer level.

Students Learning in Ohio

Research shows that kids who experience boating before they reach 18 are most likely to be boat owners in the future. So a unique program in Ohio is worthy of a call out as a model for others.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has created an Interpretive Paddle Program intended to give young people an opportunity to discover new experiences related to Lake Erie.

The program takes students and teachers on the waterways that play an important role in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The paddling trips will not only introduce participants to kayaking, but also provide educational experiences examining ecology, watersheds and human impacts on waterways.

The program will also teach students about civic engagement and enhance their environmental literacy about Great Lakes habitats and water quality. The goal is to encourage young people to become environmental stewards for one of Ohio’s greatest resources, Lake Erie.

“By getting students out on the water, we are encouraging them to not only think about the importance of our waterways, but to take action to contribute to their health and beauty,” says ODNR director Mary Mertz.

Funding for the program comes from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. A grant of $133,650 enabled ODNR to create the Interpretive Paddle Program, which will give students a taste of kayaking while they learn about the importance of the Great Lakes and its tributaries.


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