As of April 1, operators of boats smaller than 26 feet will be required to use the engine cut-off switch link under certain circumstances, as the Coast Guard implements a 2018 federal law.
The 2018 law requires that manufacturers of new boats smaller than 26 feet with an engine capable of at least 3 hp be equipped with an engine cut-off switch. This feature has been in place on many vessels for decades, but as of 2019 it is a federal requirement.
Since the overwhelming majority of boats already have an engine cut-off switch, compliance has been the main problem. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 now obligates anyone who operates a vessel smaller than 26 feet to use the cut-off link under certain circumstances.
The Coast Guard states that “the engine cut-off links must be used when the primary helm is not within an enclosed cabin, and when the boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed.” Some situations where the engine cut-off link will not be required include docking, trailering, trolling and operating in no-wake zones.
An engine cut-off link, which can be a lanyard or a fob, connects the vessel operator to a switch that shuts the engine off if the operator is displaced from the helm. Physical lanyards are designed to disengage from the engine cut-off switch and shut down the engine if the operator falls from the vessel.
Wireless links use an electronic fob that is carried by the operator and activates the cut-off switch remotely when it is submerged.
Seven states already have engine cut-off switch laws for boats, and 44 states already have them for personal watercraft.