New law requires kill switches on some boats

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Boats will now be required to have kill switches on the lake, according to a new federal bill.

The law, which went into effect on April 1, 2021, requires boat drivers to wear a lanyard that is attached to the engine. If the driver leaves the helm with the lanyard still attached, the boat will automatically turn-off.

U.S. Coast Guard Lake Tahoe Station Chief Nathan Fairchield said he sees two big benefits for this change.

“If the operator falls off the vessel, they won’t get run-over by the vessel,” Fairchild said. “Also, first responders won’t have the added stressors of chasing down the boat and turning it off while also administering first aid.”

While Fairchild did not have the exact numbers of how many incidents last year could have been improved by this law, there were several fatal instances of boats moving away after the driver had fallen in during the 2020 boat season.

The law applies to motorized boats with three or more horsepower that is less than 26 feet in length. Fairchild said the exceptions are for boats where the helm is in a closed cabin or when a boat is in a no-wake zone.

“For the first year, we’ll be focusing on education for first time offenders,” Fairchild said.

After the first year, the law allows for fines up to $100 for a first offense and up to $500 by the third offense.

The law was included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2021 passed by Congress earlier this year.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.