The Coast Guard is currently considering regulations that would make engine cut off lanyards mandatory on boats 26 feet and under. Everyone’s surely seen these cut off lanyards, which attach to a kill switch and are triggered if the captain is thrown from the boat. In fact, it’ll be tough to find a boat under 26 that doesn't already have the lanyard and kill switch installed – all of the major engine manufacturers have been using them for decades. The down-side? Tethered to the helm you can only move a few feet in either direction before triggering the kill switch, and it’s quite common to accidentally trip it.

An engine cut off lanyard stops the boat, if the captain goes overboard.

An engine cut off lanyard stops the boat, if the captain goes overboard.

This issue can be overcome with the use of an aftermarket wireless kill switch, like the Autotether, which uses a personal sensor you can clip to your clothing and a wireless receiver that clips onto the boat’s ignition switch. It isn't triggered until you fall overboard, giving you full freedom of motion around the boat.

Considering the prevalence of kill switches on modern boats, some people will wonder why a government agency feels it’s necessary to create mandates that are already being fulfilled. The answer lies in Coast Guard proposal Docket No. USCG-2009-0206 RIN 1625-AB34, which consists of 6,147 words yet covers precious little ground we haven’t already touched on in the above two paragraphs. Can you say: boring? Lucky for you, I've already slogged through it to find the one tidbit of info that counts: though nearly all boats have the kill switch lanyards installed, nearly everyone fails to use them, nearly all the time. The regulations being proposed would make their use mandatory, to the tune of a $1,000 civil fine.

You think this is a great idea? You think it’s crazy? Whatever you think, you can toss in your two cents, because the Coast Guard is accepting public comment on the proposed regulations through September 6, 2011. Just go to the government's Regulations web site and let ‘em know what you think!

- Lenny Rudow