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Boating Safety

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Under a new federal law effective April 1, 2021, those piloting boats less than 26 feet in length are required to use their engine cut-off switches (ECOS) much of the time. That means wearing a lanyard—aka ECOS link—while at the wheel. (Formerly referred to as, “kill switches,” the term engine cut-off switch, or ECOS, is the preferred nomenclature, whether referring to engine-cut-off switches operated by a physical lanyard or any of several electronic solutions.)

Since December 2019, ECOS links have been US Coast Guard-required equipment on recreational powerboats less than 26 feet. In reality, the vast majority of recreational powerboats of this size have for decades come with ECOS links to help prevent runaway vessels if the helmsman goes overboard. Seven states already have similar laws, including Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey and Texas. Forty-four states have the same kinds of regulations for personal watercraft.

When an ECOS is attached to the helmsman, it shuts off the engine(s) if he or she is thrown from the wheel. The ECOS link is often-and historically-a lanyard with a clip. However, wireless ECOS from companies such as Fell Marine and Mercury Marine have recently been developed and are also approved for use by the Coast Guard. These use an electronic “fob” that is worn by the helmsman and shuts down propulsion when it is submerged in water.