Boating Safety

Emergency Shutoff Switches Now Required by Law

Conventional lanyard-style emergency shutoff switches have been around for decades, but most people don’t wear them.

As of April 1, operators of boats shorter than 26’ will be required to use an emergency shutoff switch. The United States Coast Guard will be enforcing a federal law that was passed in 2018.

The law requires that manufacturers of boats 26’ long and shorter with powered by an engine making at least 3 hp equip the vessels with an emergency engine cut-off switch. The switches have been in place on many vessels for decades, but it only became a federal requirement in 2019.

Just Wear It

The overwhelming majority of boats already have an engine cut-off switch, but much like personal flotation devices, compliance has been the primary obstacle to people using them. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 now requires anyone who operates a boat shorter than 26’ to use the cut-off link under certain circumstances.

The law states that the switch must be used when the primary helm is not within an enclosed cabin and when the boat is operating on plane or above displacement speed. Some situations where the switch will not be required includes when docking, trailering, trolling and when operating in no-wake zones.


Fell Marine is one of the first makers of wireless remote-style cutoff switches that the user wears on his or her wrist.


An engine shutoff switch can be a lanyard that attaches to the operator with a clip and shuts off the engine if it’s pulled away from an attachment point at the helm. More modern wireless fobs use a wireless link and remotely shuts down the engine when the fob is submerged.

Seven states already have engine cut-off switch laws for boats and 44 have them for personal watercraft.