The kill switch
Your boat’s emergency stop can save your life
Many boats under 35 feet have a kill switch. When pulled out, this spring-loaded pin completes a circuit and keeps your engine running. A small clip pushes under the switch to hold it open. This clip is attached to a lanyard that should be attached somewhere on the boat operator’s body. Usually a flexible line coiled like a spring, the lanyard allows the operator reasonable movement. If the operator falls off the seat or into the water, the clip pulls out, the pin closes and the engine shuts down.
If your boat doesn’t have a kill switch, you can retrofit it with various types of commercially available switches. Radio-activated switches allow the operator to wander a certain distance from the console before shutting the engine down; water-activated models shut down the boat if the operator goes overboard.
An important piece of safety equipment, a kill switch can prevent man-overboard fatalities, providing it’s used. All too often, however, I see the lanyard and clip attached to the instrument panel, while the other end hangs unattached. This renders the kill switch useless. The second-worst thing to falling overboard is falling overboard and watching your boat sail away. Be sure to have a kill switch on board and use it faithfully.