A boat’s ignition safety switch lanyard, or kill switch, is the #1 most important piece of equipment to prevent propeller strike injuries. If the captain must leave the helm, passes out, or has a medical emergency, the kill switch will cut the engine.
You will likely also see the following answers on the boating test:
- Steering control
- Ignition safety switch lanyard
- Self-circling device
- USCG-approved life jacket
However, the correct answer to this question is “ ignition safety switch lanyard.”
More important than knowing the right answer is understanding why it’s such an important question to ask. Here’s some useful background information on this question:
In 2022, at least one person in 173 accidents was struck by a propeller. These propellor-related boating incidents resulted in:
The good news is that the total accidents involving propellers are down 30% since 2020. A lot of this improvement is attributed to more robust captain’s training and advancements in safety features, such as ignition kill switches, resulting in fewer boating accidents involving propellers.
So how does this work? The ignition safety switch lanyard works by connecting to the captain’s wrist or belt loop.
It’s essentially a cord (or rope) that connects from the boat’s ignition (where the key goes in) to the captain’s body. If the captain moves away from the steering wheel (also known as the helm of the boat) for any reason, the tension on the cord will pull the switch from the ignition, cutting the engine and immediately turning the propeller off. Though these lanyards have been around for a while, a law passed in 2021 requires their use on all boats under 26ft in length. Captains should never avoid wearing the lanyard because it’s one of the most important (and easiest to use) safety features on your boat.