The New Safety Lanyard Law

Boating in the Lowcountry | Jim Duncan | May 2021

For many years, engine cutoff switches (ECOS), or safety lanyards have been included as standard equipment for most boat and engine manufacturers.

However, most boaters are not in the habit of using them for their intended purpose. Now, the use of these ECOS are required by law.

Requiring the use of these devices is part of the National Defense Authorization Act that included a U.S. Coast Guard Re-authorization.

Effective April 1, 2021, the new law requires a vessel operator to use either a helm or outboard lanyard or wireless ECOS on certain vessels less than 26 feet when traveling on plane or above displacement speed.

While most utilize lanyards, some ECOS devices eliminate the lanyard and rely on wireless proximity devices to shut down an engine if the operator goes overboard.

Exceptions to the ECOS requirement include if the main helm of the vessel is in an enclosed cabin or the vessel is not operating on plane or at displacement speed.

Low-speed activities such as fishing or docking do not require use of an ECOS. The vessel operator is also exempt if the boat’s motor produces less than 115 lbs. of static thrust – or about the size of a 2-hp engine.

The new law applies to all federally navigable waterways. As this is a federal law, states generally do not have the ability to enforce the new ECOS regulation.

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However, there is a provision in the South Carolina Watercraft Code of Laws that states that Coast Guard Navigational Rules automatically apply to the state.

While boat operators who fail to follow the new requirement could face a $100 civil penalty for the first offense, BoatUS expects the U.S. Coast Guard’s initial focus will be on education.

Boaters are encouraged to check the U.S. Coast Guard website for additional information on this new use requirement and other safety regulations and recommendations.

Now is the time to get in the habit of using your safety lanyard. If you do not like the idea of being tethered to the helm, consider investing in one of the new wireless proximity devices to give you a bit more freedom. In any event, these devices are designed to save lives.

At Duncan’s Boats, we are passionate about the boating lifestyle and encourage all boaters to enjoy the day on the water in a safe and responsible manner.

Jim Duncan / Duncan’s Boats / 843-744-2628

For more informative reading visit Duncan’s Boats Learning Center