Effective April 1st, there are new engine cutoff device wear requirements for recreational boaters on vessels less than 26 feet. These devices, referred to as engine cutoff switches (ECOS), are used to prevent a boating injury if an operator is accidentally thrown overboard while underway. 

Engine cutoff devices can be located at the helm of the boat or the body of an outboard engine and usually connect a boat’s operator to the cutoff switch with a lanyard. Some don’t use a lanyard and rely on wireless proximity devices to shut down the engine immediately if the operator goes overboard. 

Exceptions to this requirement include if the main helm of the boat is an enclosed cabin or the boat is operating below displacement speed. For example, boaters who are fishing or docking do not need to use an ECOS.

This new law is applicable to all federally navigable waterways. States do not have the ability to enforce the new ECOS regulation, though a few states currently have their own ECOS laws. Most states are expected to amend their rules and regulations to match federal law over the coming years. Boat operators who don’t follow the new requirement could face a $100 civil penalty for first offenses.