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Transcript for The “Circle of Death”

Boating safety experts want boaters to be aware of a dangerous operating force which, combined with operator inattention or error, may cause serious injury or death. The accident is triggered by the operator letting go of the boat’s steering mechanism.

How the Accident Occurs

The boater releases his grip on the steering wheel or outboard motor steering handle. Although the steering mechanism has been released, the boat is still powered and the propeller continues to rotate in a clockwise direction. A phenomenon called steering torque forces the motor to slam to the left, which makes the boat cut sharply to the right. The boat’s abrupt turn to the right ejects the boat operator into the water. The empty boat continues to travel around in a circle and returns to strike the victim in the water, inflicting massive propeller injuries. Safety experts have come to call this the “circle of death.”

Safety Precautions

Never release your grip on the steering wheel or motor handle until the boat has ceased all forward motion. Although some steering torque is unavoidable, if it takes extra effort to hold your boat on a straight course, have your boat serviced immediately by a qualified technician.

If your motor is equipped with a “kill switch” or ignition safety switch [engine cut-off switch], always fasten the lanyard to your PFD or clothing. Then, if you do fall out of your boat, the lanyard, which is attached to the motor’s electrical system, disables the motor. This prevents the boat from circling back.

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