Monday, September 12, 2011

Lanyard Law Gains Support

Talk of lanyard law validated by weekend accident?...

See that red wire dangling to the right of the steering wheel? Do you use yours?
A few months ago we told you that boaters may soon be required to wear engine emergency kill switch lanyards, and we described what they are... You know, that red cord that dangles from somewhere on your boat’s dash? Its purpose is to kill the engine if the operator of a boat is incapacitated. Recent surveys of boating manufacturers as well as a very relevant boating accident over the weekend are signs that this law may be closer to affecting boaters than we originally thought...  

Industry Support
After much testing of various kill switch devices as well as a survey of all the major boat manufacturers in the United States, the powerful National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) has thrown its support behind incorporating emergency stop lanyards (ESL) into all boats and requiring their use on boats under 27 feet. In fact, the NMMA found that 90% of powerboat builders already have an ESL in their boats.  

Ohio River Accident 
Just this weekend, a couple of boaters in Indiana made the case, without realizing it, for mandating the use of ESLs on small powerboats...

Eagle Radio 99.3 FM reported this morning that two boaters on the Ohio River were thrown from their 16 ft jet-boat on Saturday after hitting a rough patch of water. At first, the boat continued to run at full power, spinning in circles as the two men were in the water nearby. (Imagine if it had hit either of the men!)

The boat eventually crashed into two other docked boats and ran ashore, traveling approximately 160 feet on land before stopping. (Imagine if anybody had been hurt on either of the docked boats, or on land!)

Officials said the boat was equipped with an ESL, but that it was not in use at the time. As an aside, the men also were not wearing life jackets.  

Will a Law Work?
We know what you're thinking... If the boats (as this one was) are already equipped with kill switches, why do we need another law? And, if guys like these don't obey a life jacket law, why would they obey an ESL mandate if one were in place?

Good questions, and we admittedly don't have all the answers... But education and awareness might avoid future accidents like this and prevent the loss of life and damages that could occur from run-away boats. If boaters are aware of the fact that this sort of thing could really happen to them, maybe they will start to use their ESLs. Perhaps penalties would encourage some boaters to use them. And then there are alternative devices, such as the wireless lanyard made by our neighbors at Autotether, which make ESLs more convenient to use.  It's the same argument and approach used for life jackets - education, regulations, and innovations such as the less-cumbersome inflatable life jacket are all tools used by boating safety proponents to encourage the use of life jackets.

What do you think? Is this just more unnecessary government intervention, or is it a smart step towards safer boating?