Friday, March 24, 2006

The Kill Switch and Runaway Boats



Most boats nowadays are equipped with a kill switch.  Many of them like the one on my boat come with a lanyard or cord to wrap around some part of the body (presumably) the wrist.  If you attach it to your body as the operator and you are thrown from the boat it will automatically kill the motor.

We have reported two recent accidents where people are thrown from their boats only to have the runaway craft circle back and kill them.  Had they used an operational kill switch this may not have happened.  Presumably the boat would have come to a harmless stop.

We do not like to speculate about matters (tragic deaths) that we have limited knowledge on, but based upon limited facts in the press it appears this could be the case. 

One report said:

    • Both Brunner and Ashabraner were reportedly wearing life jackets at the time of the accident.
    • Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), who were in charge of the investigation into Saturday's accident, said that Brunner failed to use his kill switch, “which contributed significantly to his death.”
    • “This is exactly what a kill switch is designed to prevent,” officials said, “because in that situation, a boat is just going to continue to circle.”
    • The KDFWR said that the boat made contact with Ashabraner three times after the two men were thrown into the water.
    • “He (Brunner) would still be alive today if he had just used the kill switch,” the KDFWR said.

Another report said:

    • Another important safety tip for boaters, remember to attach this kill switch. It'll stop the boat instantly if you do fall out. Children under 10 are required by law to wear life jackets when on the water, as are water skiers and jet skiers.

I am sure there are downsides to using a kill switch.  I have at times inadvertently pulled the switch only to have the motor die.  If this happens in traffic it could cause a problem but overall I choose to use mine as the risk of being thrown from the boat with or without passengers can be high. 

Follow your boat manufacturer’s advice on this.

Let me know your thoughts on this.  If there are downsides let us know what they are.


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