National Safe Boating Council Reminds Powerboaters to Use an Engine Cut-Off Switch

The National Safe Boating Council (NSBC) reminds boaters to “Get Connected” and use an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) every time they go powerboating to keep them and others safe on the water. 

An engine cut-off switch attaches to the boat operator and cuts power to the boat’s engine if the operator is displaced from the helm. It also may be activated manually if needed in an emergency. An ECOS may be a lanyard attached to the engine switch, or a boat may be equipped with wireless technology that resembles a key fob or wristband.

“Imagine if your powerboat hits a wave, takes a sharp turn, or runs into an object. It only takes a second for a boater to fall into the water,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council. “When this happens, there’s a risk of being struck by the boat’s propeller. An engine cut-off switch will stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.”

Each year the U.S. Coast Guard receives reports of recreational vessel operators who fall or are suddenly and unexpectedly thrown out of their boat. In 2020 there were 247 boating accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these accidents resulted in 39 deaths and 241 injuries.

As of April 1, 2021, as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, it is the law to use an engine cut-off switch. An exception to the law is if the main helm is within an enclosed cabin or the vessel does not have or is not required to have an engine cut-off switch. Learn more about the law at

“Whether you’re an experienced or new powerboater, reduce the risk of a propeller injury by using your engine cut-off switch,” said Phillips. “Make your day on the water a perfect day by staying safe.” 

A majority of new powerboats already have an engine cut-off switch installed. In 2019, a provision in the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act required that boat manufacturers, dealers, and distributors ensure that new boats less than 26 feet and with engines capable of more than 115 pounds of thrust have an engine cut-off switch.

The NSBC’s Get Connected campaign helps educate recreational boaters about the types of engine cut-off switches available and why to use them to reduce injuries and save lives. Find resources and learn more at (