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Ignition Safety (Engine Shut-Off) Switches

Most powerboats and PWCs come equipped by the manufacturer with an emergency ignition safety switch. This safety device can shut off the engine if the operator falls off the PWC or out of the powerboat, or is otherwise thrown from the proper operating position.

Safety Lanyard
  • A lanyard connects the safety switch to the operator's wrist or PFD. When the lanyard is pulled from the switch, the engine shuts off.
  • If a PWC has an ignition safety switch, most states require the operator to attach the lanyard. (Most states do not require powerboat operators to attach the lanyard). However, even if attaching the lanyard is not required by law, many lives could be saved by doing so. If your powerboat or PWC does not have an ignition safety switch, you should have one installed.
  • Your PWC may have a self-circling feature. If the operator is thrown from the PWC, the engine idles while the PWC slowly circles so that the operator can reboard. Be sure the idle speed is set correctly.
Use of Ignition Safety Switches Helps Prevent Propeller Strikes

Each year, many boating accidents involve an operator and/or passengers who fall overboard for a variety of reasons. Wearing an ignition safety switch lanyard not only ensures that your boat or PWC stays close if you fall overboard, but it also prevents you from being run over by your own boat. When the operator isn't wearing a lanyard, the unmanned boat tends to run in hard, fast circles, often resulting in a severe injury or death from a propeller strike. Wearing the lanyard reduces the risk of a propeller injury and makes it easier to reboard the boat.

Other Devices that Reduce Propeller Strikes

Several new technologies are available to reduce propeller strikes. The devices fall into the following categories.

Propeller guard
  • Guards: Devices that provide some type of physical barrier around the propeller. These include deflection devices, full cages, ring guards, ringed props, and "Kort Nozzles."
  • Propulsion:Devices other than a propeller such as jet drives and pump jets.
  • Interlocks: Devices that automatically turn off the engine or sound an alarm. For example, a ladder interlock stops the engine or triggers an alarm when passengers use the ladder to enter or leave the water.
  • Sensors: Wireless sensors or other devices worn by boaters that shut off the boat's engine or trigger an alarm if the wearer falls overboard.