A kill-switch law has been passed in Texas following a boating accident in Port, Aransas, Texas. The law requires that boat operators of a motor boat 26 feet or less in length be physically connected to a boat’s emergency shutoff switch. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill on June 10, 2019. It has been called “Kali’s Law” after 16-year-old Kali Gorzell. The young teen died in 2012 after being struck and killed by the propellor of a boat after being ejected. This law complements the required use of a kill switch for PWC’s and will go into effect on September 1, 2019. This makes Texas one of seven states with a mandatory kill-switch law for powerboats.
what is it
A kill-switch (also known as an ignition safety switch), typically consists of a cord or lanyard with a special clip at one end. The clip attaches to a button or a switch on the boat that must be engaged to allow the boat to start or continue operating. The opposite end secures to the boat operators lifejacket / PFD, belt loop or wrist. The law also allows for the use of functional wireless attachments. These attachments activate the engine kill-switch electronically if the boat operator was to fall overboard.
By properly wearing a kill-switch, it eliminates the possibility of being hit by a boat or PWC or struck by a spinning engine propeller if the driver is ejected. If the operator is thrown from the boat, the kill-switch is unplugged and the boat’s engine is disabled.
What happens Without a Kill-switch
With no one onboard to steer the boat there is a loss of control and many vessels typically end up turning in circles under the torque of the spinning propeller. This is often referred to as the “circle of death” because ejected boaters are at high risk of being run over by the boat and potentially struck by the spinning propeller.
End swapping is another scenario that can occur when the steering of the boat is compromised. It happens when a boat enters into a turn and loses its ability to maintain steerage contact with the water. In some cases the boat may violently spin out. Boats that are prone to end swapping are those that are specifically designed for shallow water fishing. The majority of these boats are mostly flat-deck with little or no railings.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics report, there were 172 accidents nationwide that year in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. The report states that those accidents resulted in 31 deaths and 162 injuries. “The Coast Guard reminds all boaters to boat responsibly on the water: wear a life jacket, take a boating safety course, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free vessel safety check, and boat sober.” Both traditional lanyard engine cut-off devices and wireless models are available to install for both old and new boats.