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3 Things to Know About the Newest USCG Law

Jul 30, 2021
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A smiling crew, beautiful weather, several successful catches, and plenty of fish on ice–these are some of the things that make for a great day on the water. As summer approaches its halfway point, we’re hoping you, your family, and your friends have had many days like this! 

When out on the boat, it’s not only the things that happen that make the day ideal, it’s also the things that don’t happen. (We’re talking about safety issues here.) And so that’s why we prepare beforehand, of course, stocking our boats with first aid kits, freshwater, anchors, life jackets for all on board, and more. Another important piece of the safety puzzle? That engine cut-off switch!

If you haven’t heard, as of April 1, 2021, a new federal law requires the use of engine cut-off switches while boating. So what does this mean for you as a boater? Read on as we explain the ins and outs of this new requirement.


Who does this law apply to?

Those piloting personal watercraft or boats less than 26-feet in length on U.S. waterways are required to use an engine cut-off switch while at the wheel and when the boat is operating on-plane or above displacement speed. Situations, where a cut-off switch is not required, include trolling, docking, launching or loading on a trailer, and operating in a no-wake zone. If the primary helm is in a cabin, however, the law does not apply at all.


What if my boat does not have an engine cut-off switch installed?

Most recreational boats including Robalo, do have engine cut-off switches already installed, but if yours doesn’t, not to worry. Here’s the deal: 

- If your boat was built before January 1, 2020 and does not have an engine cut-off switch already installed, you are not required to install one. If one does exist and is functioning properly though, you are required to use it. 

- If your boat was built on or after January 1, 2020 and does not have an engine cut-off switch, one must be installed and the owner is required to maintain it. You can determine the model year of your boat by checking its hull identification number.


What are its benefits?

Just like cars, boats may need to unexpectedly make sudden turns, and at times those turns could have enough lateral force to shift an operator away from their helm area or even completely out of the boat. If this happens while wearing an engine cut-off switch lanyard, the engines will turn off, allowing you to safely return to your original position. This new law is intended to make the use of these life-saving devices second nature for boaters, just as seat belt laws have become second nature when driving a car.

Remember, new laws and requirements are always implemented to make things safer–and ultimately more fun–for you and your crew. So clip that safety lanyard on and smile. We hope you have an enjoyable and safe rest of the summer on the water!