Thursday, April 1, 2021

New law takes effect today requiring boaters to use cut-off switches

(Radio Iowa) - A new federal law goes into effect Thursday that requires operators of boats equipped with an engine cut-off switch to use that switch while boating on all federally navigable waterways. In Iowa, that means the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and the four reservoirs: Coralville, Rathbun, Red Rock and Saylorville. Susan Stocker, boating law administrator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, explains the kill-switch.

"They are a red cord that usually extends from the starting mechanism," Stocker says. "It's designed so if the operator falls out of the boat and the lanyard is attached to the operator, the engine will stop."

If the boat operator falls out, it's often due to having made a sharp turn and the steering wheel won't return to center.

"What happens is the boat continues in the turning motion and unfortunately, it keeps turning and turning," Stocker says. "Potentially, it comes in contact with the person in the water and it's called the Circle of Death."

The intent of the new law is to improve safety for all recreational boaters by reducing the potential for propeller injuries. Stocker says enforcement officers will be keeping an eye out for the lanyards.

"Maybe they have spotted a registration violation or something," Stocker says, "and so they will use this and include it in their regular safety check when they're looking for equipment such as life jackets, fire extinguisher and what have you."

Most boats made in the past eight years or so are equipped with a cut-off switch, but if your craft isn't, Stocker says you're not required to upgrade, though it is an important safety feature to have.

"You actually, as a customer, do not have to put it in," Stocker says. "So, if your boat was not manufactured with an engine cutoff switch or lanyard switch, you do not have to have it installed."

Boats with motors less than three horsepower are excluded from the law.

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